Panel publishes recommendations to minimize risk of altering animals moral status
An expert panel of stem cell scientists, primatologists, philosophers and lawyers has concluded that experiments implanting, or grafting, human stem cells into non-human primate brains could unintentionally shift the moral ground between humans and other primates. Writing in the July 15 issue of Science, the panel reports its recommendations for minimizing the chances that experiments with human stem cells could change the cognitive and emotional capabilities -- and hence the "moral status" -- of the animals.
"We quickly realized that a fundamental issue was whether such experiments might unintentionally alter the animals normal cognitive capacity in ways that could cause considerable suffering," says Ruth Faden, Ph.D., M.P.H., director of the Phoebe R. Berman Bioethics Institute at The Johns Hopkins University. Faden, John Gearhart, Ph.D., of Johns Hopkins Institute for Cell Engineering, and Guy McKhann, M.D., of Hopkins Zanvyl Krieger Mind/Brain Institute, were co-organizers of the panel.
The panels deliberations focused on the potential effects of grafting human stem cells into the brains of non-human primates. Gearhart notes that such experiments are already under way and that some people see them as a necessary step toward using human stem cells as treatments to replace or repair brain cells lost in conditions like Parkinsons disease or Lou Gehrigs disease.
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