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Module 8: Ethical Issues in Stem Cell Research        


Introduction and Learning Objectives:

Module 8 introduces the critical ethical, legal, and social implications of stem cell and regenerative-based technologies. As the ethical, legal, and social issues have received significant attention from the public, professionals, and policy makers, it is important for learners to recognize and consider these issues as part of their research and training. Understanding these issues will help each scientist appreciate the ethical, legal, and social aspects of their research and their place within it. Students will discuss the ethics and policies surrounding human embryos, egg donation, gene editing, unproven stem cell interventions, fetal tissue research, and the responsible communication of science to the public. Given the rapid pace at which the field is evolving, the overarching goal of this module is to provide the building blocks on which to evaluate new technologies as they are developed.

At the conclusion of this module, students should be able to:

  • Appreciate the nuances between ethical theories surrounding the moral status of human embryos;
  • Describe ethical and social concerns in egg donation;
  • Distinguish the ethics of somatic versus germline gene editing for therapeutic and enhancement purposes;
  • Evaluate the individual risks associated with premature commercialization of stem cell clinical applications;
  • Consider the equitable access to stem cell treatments for patients with serious diseases;
  • Discuss the implications of novel stem cell technologies to the public in a sensible way balancing its potential and avoiding hype.

Core Concept

  1. Embryo ethics
  2. Ethics of egg donation
  3. Ethics of gene editing
  4. Premature translation of stem cell interventions
  5. Fetal tissue
  6. Access to future stem cell therapies
  7. Responsible communication of science to the public

This module is part of the ISSCR's Core Concepts in Stem Cell Biology: Syllabus and Learning Guide. To access the experiments, theories, and primary and secondary literature that support each of these concepts, download the complete resource by using the form on the right-hand side of this webpage.

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Education Committee

Esteban Orlando Mazzoni, PhD (Chair)
New York University, USA

William J. Anderson, PhD
Harvard University, USA

Sina Bartfeld, PhD
University of Wuerzburg, Germany

Anna Couturier
EuroStemCell and University of Edinburgh, UK

Yvanka de Soysa, PhD
Boston Children's Hospital, USA

Robin Scott Hawley, PhD
Stowers Institute for Medical Research, USA

Ping Hu, PhD
Shanghai Institute of Biochemistry and Cell Biology Chinese Academy of Sciences, China

Yuin Han Jonathan Loh, PhD
Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, Singapore

Lolitika Mandal, PhD
Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Mohali, India

Zubin Master, PhD
Mayo Clinic, USA

Alysson Renato Muotri, PhD
University of California, San Diego, USA

Jose Maria Polo, PhD
Monash University, Australia

Julie Perlin, PhD
International Society for Stem Cell Research, USA