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Stem Cells and the Future of Regenerative Medicine
adult stem cells, and vice versa. Research on both adult and embryonic human stem cells should be pursued.
Over time, all cell lines in tissue culture change, typically accumulating harmful genetic mutations. There is no reason to expect stem cell lines to behave differently. In addition, most existing stem cell lines have been cultured in the presence of non-human cells or serum that could lead to potential human health risks. Consequently, while there is much that can be learned using existing stem cell lines if they are made widely available for research, such concerns necessitate continued monitoring of these cells as well as the development of new stem cell lines in the future.
High-quality, publicly funded research is the wellspring of medical breakthroughs. Although private, for-profit research plays a critical role in translating the fruits of basic research into medical advances that are broadly available to the public, stem cell research is far from the point of providing therapeutic products. Without public funding of basic research on stem cells, progress toward medical therapies is likely to be hindered. In addition, public funding offers greater opportunities for regulatory oversight and public scrutiny of stem cell research. Stem cell research that is publicly funded and conducted under established standards of open scientific exchange, peer review, and public oversight offers the most efficient and responsible means of fulfilling the promise of stem cells to meet the need for regenerative medical therapies.
Conflicting ethical perspectives surround the use of embryonic stem cells in medical research, particularly where the moral and legal status of human embryos is concerned. The use of embryonic stem cells is not the first biomedical research activity to raise ethical and social issues among the public. Restrictions and guidelines for the conduct of controversial research have been developed to address such concerns in other instances. For example, when recombinant-DNA techniques raised questions and were subject to intense debate and public scrutiny, a national advisory body, the Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee, was established at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to ensure that