Hot Topics: Stem Cells

Blog Posts (56)

October 16, 2018

Sunset on the RAC: When is it time to end special oversight of an emerging biotechnology?

by Jeffrey P. Kahn, Ph.D., M.P.H. and Anna C. Mastroianni, J.D., M.P.H.

National Institutes of Health Director (NIH) Francis S. Collins and Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb recently co-authoreda New England Journal of Medicinecommentary suggesting that special oversight of gene transfer research in humans was no longer necessary.…

July 13, 2018

Raiding the CRISPR

A couple of gene-editing news items from this week’s science literature: First, Nature reports that a group in my “back yard,” at the University of California San Diego, has tested gene editing using the CRISPR approach in mice.  Recall that CRISPR is an acronym for a particular molecular mechanism, first discovered in bacteria, that is …

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July 5, 2018

Labs are growing human embryos for longer than ever before

That’s only a slight paraphrase of a news feature article this week in Nature.  The clearly-written article is devoid of scientific jargon, with helpful illustrations, open-access online, and readily accessible to the non-specialist.  Check it out. Key points include: Scientists who do not find it ethically unacceptable to create and destroy human embryos solely for …

Continue reading "Labs are growing human embryos for longer than ever before"

June 15, 2018

A safety concern with gene editing

Hat-tip to Dr. Joe Kelley for bring this to my attention… As readers of this blog will recall, there is keen interest in exploiting recent discoveries in genetic engineering to “edit” disease-causing gene mutations and develop treatments for various diseases.  Initially, such treatments would likely use a patient’s own cells—removed from the body, edited to change the cells’ genes in a potentially therapeutic way, then... // Read More »
February 20, 2018

DIY CRISPR Kits – Gene Editing for the Rest of Us

One might think with the amazing advance of technology and easy access to nearly infinite data via the Internet that we, as a society, would see a reduction in false claims of benefit for novel medical procedures and untested medications. Sadly, it seems to be just the opposite. I seem to be spending gradually more time with my patients reviewing the results of their internet... // Read More »
December 14, 2017

“Nervy” SHEEFs, pain, and moral status

In May of this year, my brief essays (literally, “attempts”) on synthetic human entities with embryo-like features, or SHEEFs for short, sought to ask what sort of human cellular constructs might or might not enjoy full human moral status; to wit, the right to life.  Some experimenters with SHEEFs have suggested that, since they may bypass the early (14 days of life) markers that normal,... // Read More »
November 6, 2017

Stem Cell Clinics & the FDA

When any business over-promises and under-delivers, it is well on its way to failure.   Does this principle also hold true in the world of stem-cells?  In the last few months the promise of stem cell treatment has met the reality of government oversight. Does the government have the responsibility to rein in the larger-than-life claims of stem cell treatment clinics? In a letter dated August 24, 2017... // Read More »
October 6, 2017

Human gene editing marches on

Nature has recently carried two new reports of human gene editing.  In one, embryos donated from an IVF clinic had a gene critical to very early development altered, to study what happens when you do that, and try to understand early human development more than we now do.  In the other, scientists studied editing of an abnormal recessive gene, specifically the one causing a type... // Read More »
October 3, 2017

Is Obfuscation Ever Helpful in Science or Ethics?

Obfuscation and science would seem to be polar opposites. The scientific method hinges upon correctly identifying what one starts with, making a single known alteration in that starting point, and then accurately determining what one ends up with. Scientific knowledge results from this process. Accidental obfuscation in that three-step process necessarily limits the knowledge that could potentially be gleaned from the method. Peer review normally... // Read More »
June 6, 2017

Bioethical Jets and Sharks

Recently, Professor Craig Klugman called on the President to set up his Presidential Bioethics Commission. He provides a nice history of Presidential Bioethics Commissions dating back to President Ford. The link to that article is HERE. Other than the usual implication that the President may not be intellectually up to the challenge, I agree with Professor Klugman that there are many pressing bioethical issues that... // Read More »

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Published Articles (7)

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 14 Issue 2 - Feb 2014

Transferring Morality to Human–Nonhuman Chimeras Monika Piotrowska

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 13 Issue 1 - Jan 2013

The Argument from Potentiality in the Embryo Protection Debate: Finally “Depotentialized”? Marco Stier & Bettina Schoene-Seifert

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 13 Issue 1 - Jan 2013

Two Watershed Stem Cell Experiments: A Look Back Christopher Scott

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 8 Issue 12 - Dec 2008

Response to Open Peer Commentaries on ?Visual Bioethics?

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 7 Issue 10 - Oct 2007

"Show Me" Bioethics and Politics

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 6 Issue 5 - Sep 2006

Taking Stem Cells Seriously

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 5 Issue 6 - Nov 2005

Rescuing Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research: The Blastocyst Transfer Method

News (592)

December 13, 2018 9:15 am

Trump administration halts study that would use fetal tissue ‘to discover a cure for HIV’ (The Washington Post)

The shutdown of the HIV research at the federal lab in Montana, first reported in Science, was never disclosed publicly by government officials, who have forbidden affected researchers from discussing what happened. But colleagues say they are incensed by the action, which has fanned a controversy that pits the biomedical research community against antiabortion activists and other social conservatives pressing the administration to stop the flow of federal grants and contracts for work involving fetal tissue. Such tissue comes from elective abortions.

October 25, 2018 9:00 am

Scientists argue heart stem cell trial should be paused (The Washington Post)

Sick people should not be subjected to the risks of an experiment whose underlying science has been called into question.

October 15, 2018 9:00 am

Healthy mice from same-sex parents have their own pups (Nature)

Advance reveals genetic factors that require mammals to reproduce using two sexes.
September 13, 2017 9:00 am

South Korean researchers lobby government to lift human-embryo restrictions (Nature)

More than a decade after a fraud scandal in stem-cell science rocked South Korea, scientists in the field are ramping up pressure on the government to relax the country’s strict regulations on human-embryo research — which many researchers label a ban.

July 28, 2017 9:00 am

First U.S. team to gene-edit human embryos revealed (Science)

Since Chinese researchers announced the first gene editing of a human embryo 2 years ago, many expected that similar work in the United States was inevitable. Last night, the MIT Technology Review broke the news that such experiments have happened. The research, led by embryologist Shoukhrat Mitalipov of Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, also reportedly sidestepped problems of incomplete and off-target editing that plagued previous attempts, though details could not be confirmed since the work is not yet published and Mitalipov has so far declined to comment.

June 30, 2017 9:00 am

Stem cell approach for cataracts challenged (Science)

A team of ophthalmologists and stem cell scientists is advancing a controversial new approach to treating cataracts, the clumping of lens proteins that blurs the vision of about one in six Americans over age 40, plus thousands of infants born every year. Instead of replacing the cloudy lens with a plastic replacement, this technique relies on the capsule’s resident stem cell to regrow an entire new lens.

June 26, 2017 9:00 am

Texas signals support for unproven stem cell therapies (Science)

Texas last week signaled its defiance of the federal government over unproven stem cell therapies, which are widely offered in the state for conditions including joint damage, diabetes, and neurodegenerative illnesses. A bill signed by Governor Greg Abbott allows clinics and companies in the state to offer the experimental treatments without the testing and approval required under federal law, provided they are recommended and delivered by a physician, and performed at a hospital or medical center with oversight from an institutional review board. Now, bioethicists and patient advocates wonder whether the state’s official blessing will simply maintain the status quo, embolden clinics already profiting from potentially risky therapies, or—perhaps—tighten certain protections for patients.

May 25, 2017 9:00 am

Fixing the tomato: CRISPR edits correct plant-breeding snafu (Nature)

From their giant fruits to compact plant size, today’s tomatoes have been sculpted by thousands of years of breeding. But mutations linked to prized traits — including one that made them easier to harvest — yield an undesirable plant when combined, geneticists have foundIt is a rare example of a gene harnessed during domestication that later hampered crop improvement efforts, says geneticist Zachary Lippman of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York. After identifying the mutations, he and his colleagues used CRISPR gene editing to engineer more productive plants — a strategy that plant breeders are eager to adopt.

April 27, 2017 9:00 am

California’s $3-billion bet on stem cells faces final test (Nature)

When California voters approved US$3 billion in funding for stem-cell research in 2004, biologists flocked to the state, and citizens dreamed of cures for Parkinson’s disease and spinal-cord injuries. Now, the pot of money — one of the biggest state investments in science — is running dry before treatments have emerged, raising questions about whether Californians will pour billions more into stem-cell research.

April 24, 2017 9:00 am

CRISPR studies muddy results of older gene research (Nature)

Scientists face tough decisions when the latest gene-editing findings don’t match up with the results of other techniques.

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