Ethical sources of stem cells

by Dianne N. Irving, M.A., Ph.D.

“This is the dream of being able to get stem cells from adults,” University of Nebraska Medical Center professor Sam Cohen told the National Bioethics Advisory Committee. “But you’ve got to remember: That is basically still a dream.”
Where have they been for the last four years — walking around in a dream? I list below only the studies and reports on the successful use of adult stem cells — including human — published up to the first part of 2000; many others have also been reported since then: Nicholas Wade, “Cell experiment offers hope for tissue repair”, The New York Times, Jan. 22, 1999, A21. See Christopher R.R. Bjornson, et al, “Turning brain into blood: A hematopoietic fate adopted by adult neural stem cells in vivo, Science 1999, 283:534-537.

For adult human stem cells studies describing their change to a different organ system, see, e.g.: (adult human cancerous gonadal cells become nerve cells in adult human patients) Daniel Q. Haney, “Scientists try to grow brain parts, APNews, May 1, 1999; (fetal human neural stem cells put into mice become mice neural family cells) “Human neural stem cells advance distant prospect of reseeding damaged brain”, Science Daily Magazine, Jan. 26, 1999 (Source: Harvard Medical School). For adult animal stem cells studies describing their change to a different organ system, see, e.g.: (adult mice neural stem cells become mouse blood family cells) Christopher R. Bjornson et al, “Turning brain into blood: A hematopoietic fate adopted by adult neural stem cells in vivo”, Science 1999, 283:534-537; Deborah Josefson, “Adult stem cells may be redefinable”, British Medical Journal 1999, 318:282; “Adult cells undergo identity switch reported in Science”, Science Daily Magazine (Source: American Association For The Advancement Of Science); (adult rat bone marrow stem cells become rat liver cells and pancreatic cells) B.E. Petersen et al, “Bone marrow as a potential source of hepatic oval cells”, Science 1999, 284:1168-1170 [bone marrow to liver cells only]; Paul Recer, “Cell used to make new liver tissue”, The Washington Post, May 13, 1999 [bone marrow to liver cells and pancreatic cells]; (adult vertebrate neural stem cells become neural family cells and other family cells , e.g., skin melanocytes and mesenchymal cells in the head and neck) M. Murphy et al, “Neural stem cells”, Journal of Investigative Dermatology Symposium Proceedings 1997 (Aug.), 2:1:8-13.

For studies demonstrating adult human stem cells which differentiate to the same family of cells, see, e.g.: (adult human mesenchymal stem cells in bone marrow change to multilineage family cell line cells in vitro) Mark F. Pittenger, et al, “Multilineage potential of adult human mesenchymal stem cells”, Science 1999, 284:143-146; Nicholas Wade, “Discovery bolsters a hope for regeneration: Biotechnology firm converts basic cells into bone and cartilage”, New York Times, April 2, 1999, A17; August Gribbin, “Stem-cell breakthrough offers hope; Baltimore team hailed for efforts”, The Washington Times, April 2, 1996, A1.

For studies demonstrating adult stems that have been identifies in humans and animals, see, e.g.: (adult brain stem cells identified in monkeys and humans) “Rodent brain stem cells regenerate after stroke”, UniSciScience and Research News, Feb. 8, 1999; (adult mouse brain stem cells identified) A. Gritti et al, “Multipotential stem cells from the adult mouse brain proliferate and self-renew in response to basic fibroblast growth factor”, Journal of Neuroscience 1996, 16:3:1091-1100; (adult mammalian neural stem cell identified) Class B. Johansson et al, “Identification of a neural stem cell in the adult mammalian central nervous system”, Cell 1999, 96:25-34; (adult mammalian forebrain neural stem cell identified) S. Weiss et al, “Is there a neural stem cell in the mammalian forebrain?”, Trends in Neuroscience 1996, 19:9:387-93; (adult mammalian brain stem cells identified) O. Brustle and R.D. McKay, “Neuronal progenitors as tools for cell replacement in the nervous system”, Current Opinions in Neurobiology 1996, 6:5:688-695.

For studies demonstrating the use of adult human stem cells in human patients, see, e.g.: Mark Moran, “For cell transplants, is one brain better than two?”, American Medical News, May 3, 1999, p. 29; “Stem cells move closer to treating patients”, UniSci, April 2, 1999; Laura Johannes, “Adult stem cells have advantage battling disease”, The Wall Street Journal, April 13, 1999, B1; “The future of placental-blood transplantation”, Editorials, The New England Journal of Medicine 1998, 339:22:1628-1629; Alan W. Flake and Esmail D. Zanjani, “In utero hematopoietic stem cell transplantation”, JAMA 1997, 278:11:932-937.

Dianne N. Irving, M.A., Ph.D. 
Professor of Philosophy
Dominican House of Studies
Washington, D.C. 20017