by Carmen Leibel and Lisa Willemse
December 10, 2009 - (Edmonton) The University of Alberta's Timothy Caulfield is
questioning some of the ethical and legal barriers facing a new stem cell
It was two years ago when a groundbreaking discovery turned ordinary skin
cells back into an embryonic or "pluripotent" state. This was recognized as the
solution to the controversial ethical question that has plagued stem-cell
science for the past decade.
But is it the solution? Or have iPS cells (induced pluripotent stem cells)
added a new dimension to the legal, social and ethical debates that are an
important and necessary part of stem-cell advances?
Caulfield, research director at the U of A's Health Law Institute and
principal investigator at the Stem Cell Network, says that while iPS technology
eliminates some of the ethical issues specific to embryonic stem-cell research
it also adds new challenges.
"From a legal perspective, iPS technology is fascinating and complex. For
example, if an iPS cell can be made into a functional human gamete, the
potential exists for reproductive purposes. What would this mean for donor
consent, concerns about cloning and rights of a potential child to know its
parents," said Caulfield.