God and the Embryo: Religious Voices on Stem Cells and Cloning

By Brent Waters; Ronald Cole-Turner | Go to book overview

APPENDIX A
Declaration on the Production and the
Scientific and Therapeutic Use of Human
Embryonic Stem Cells

PONTIFICAL ACADEMY FOR LIFE

This document seeks to contribute to the debate on the production and use of embryonic stem cells which is now taking place in scientific and ethical literature and in public opinion. Given the growing relevance of the debate on the limits and licity of the production and use of such cells, there is a pressing need to reflect on the ethical implications which are present.

The first section will very briefly set out the most recent scientific data on stem cells and the biotechnological data on their production and use. The second section will draw attention to the more relevant ethical problems raised by these new discoveries and their applications.


Scientific Aspects

Although some aspects need to be studied more thoroughly, a commonly accepted definition of “stem cell” describes it as a cell with two characteristics: 1) the property of an unlimited self-maintenance—that is, the ability to reproduce itself over a long period of time without becoming differentiated; and 2) the capability to produce non-permanent progenitor cells, with limited capacity for proliferation, from which derive a variety of lineages of highly differentiated cells (neural cells, muscle cells, blood cells, etc.). For about thirty years stem cells have provided a vast field of research in adult tissue,1 in embryonic tissue and in in vitro cultures of embryonic stem cells of experimental animals.2 But public attention has recently increased with a new milestone that has been reached: the production of human embryonic stem cells.

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