Essay on Stem Cells

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1. The object of this Paper is to provide an independent assessment of the Donaldson Committee's Recommendations in light of the most recent advances in stem cell research.
2. Stem cells should be defined by their ability to renew themselves and diversify into other cell types.
3. There are several readily accessible sources of stem cells. Strict criteria apply to the use of these sources in medical research.
4. Stem cells have wide potential application in medicine. "Adult" stem cells have already been used in the world's first recorded case of successful gene therapy "surgery".
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However, the Donaldson Committee's Report clearly states that the ethical objections to the cloning of human embryos for this purpose are "outweighed by the potential benefits" of using embryonic stem cells to advance research into the treatment of degenerative diseases.
Submitted to the Department of Health as long ago as January 2000, the Report's recommendations are based on the most up-to-date scientific evidence available to the Donaldson Committee between January and December 1999, no less than nine months ago. And such is the pace of advances in the field of stem cell research, many experts, including scientists and medical doctors, have since challenged the basis for the Report's findings.
The object of this Briefing Paper, therefore, is to provide independent and informed analysis of the most up-to-date, cutting-edge stem cell research, in order to better inform those Members of the United Kingdom Parliament who intend to vote on whether to accept the Recommendations made by the Donaldson Committee.


The Chief Medical Officer's Advisory Group defined stem cells as "unspecialized cells which have not yet differentiated into any specific type of tissue."3 This definition is consistent with the one applied by the National Institutes of Health, the body appointed by President Clinton to consider the value of research using Human Pluripotent Stem Cells (HPSCs).

However, the limitations of this

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