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Hum Mol Genet. 2008 Apr 15;17(R1):R3-9. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddn074.

The road to pluripotence: the research response to the embryonic stem cell debate.

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Center for Biomedical Ethics, Program on Stem Cells in Society, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Stanford University School of Medicine, CA 94304, USA.


The controversies surrounding embryonic stem cell research have prompted scientists to invent beyond restrictive national policy and moral concerns. The impetus behind these reports comes from different sources, including individually held moral beliefs, societal pressures and resource constraints, both biological and financial. Along with other contributions to public policy such as advocacy or public testimony, experimentation and scientific curiosity are perhaps more natural responses scientists use to surmount impediments to research. In a research context, we review the history of the first stem cell discoveries, and describe scientific efforts leading up to recent reports of pluripotent lines made without the use of human embryos and eggs. We argue that despite the promise of these new lines, we must not lose sight of fundamental questions remaining at the frontiers of embryology and early human development. The answers to these questions will impact studies of genetics, cell biology and diseases such as cancer, autoimmunity and disorders of development. Human embryonic stem cell research is barely a decade old. The recent pace of discovery--in spite of federal restrictions--is testament to the potential of these cells to uncover some of biology's most intractable mysteries.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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