Bioethical aspects of regenerative and reproductive medicine

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The birth announced in 1997 of Dolly, the lamb cloned from the somatic mammary cells of an adult ewe, and the discovery of human embryonic stem cells in 1998 have been the most exciting developments in the biological sciences in the past decade. Reproductive somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) in additional species has been inefficient in that relatively few births, harmful side effects and high fetal and neonatal death rates have resulted from many attempts. Ongoing debates about the ethics of reproductive SCNT have revealed that some researchers regard human reproductive SCNT as morally unacceptable in all circumstances, others see merit in reproductive SCNT in certain circumstances and others await more information before making judgment about the ethical status of the procedure. Regenerative medicine and emerging biotechnologies started to revolutionize the practice of medicine. Advances in stem cell biology, including embryonic and postnatal somatic stem cells, have made the prospect of tissue regeneration a potential reality. Mammal cloning experiments have provided new impetus to the prospect of regenerative medicine through stem cell research. The procedure of SCNT could be used to create the raw material to replace defective or senescent tissue as a natural extension of the biology of stem cells. Researchers working in reproductive medicine should consider the potential hope given to many patients against the requisite and ethically contentious creation of human blastocysts for therapeutic intent.

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