Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Experts discuss use of human stem cells in ape and monkey brains

15.07.2005


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 panel’s 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 Parkinson’s disease or Lou Gehrig’s disease.



"We agreed to disagree about whether non-human primates should be used for invasive biomedical procedures at all, and to focus instead on whether experiments with stem cells and the brain posed any new, unique ethical dilemmas," says Faden.

Although the assembled experts agreed it was unlikely that grafting human stem cells into the brains of non-human primates would alter the animals’ abilities in morally relevant ways, they also felt strongly that the risk of doing so is real and too ethically important to ignore.

"Our group struggled with many fundamental questions," says Faden. "Are there cognitive or emotional capacities that are unique to humans in ways that make us worthy of higher moral status? What sets one primate, including us, apart from another primate, cognitively speaking?

"There are biblical injunctions and secular reflection over the course of centuries, but nothing is certain or universally accepted, either scientifically or morally," she adds. "Debate is complicated by uncertainty and uncharted territory in all of our fields of expertise. It quickly became clear how little is known."

"Many of us expected that, once we’d pooled our expertise, we’d be able to say why human cells would not produce significant changes in non-human brains," says Mark Greene, Ph.D., then a Greenwall Fellow at Hopkins and now a professor at the University of Delaware. "But the cell biologists and neurologists couldn’t specify limits on what implanted human cells might do, and the primatologists explained that gaps in our knowledge of normal non-human primate abilities make it difficult to detect changes. And there’s no philosophical consensus on the moral significance of changes in abilities if we could detect them."

Although unable to rule out the possibility of morally significant changes resulting from implantation of human stem cells into the non-human primate brain, the panel concluded that cognitive and emotional changes are least likely to occur when such work is conducted on healthy adult members of species distantly related to humans, such as macaques, rather than early in the brain development of our closest biological relatives, the chimpanzees and other great apes.

The panel also recommends that specific ethical oversight be applied to studies that propose grafting human stem cells or cells derived from human stem cells into the brains of other primates.

"And, to fill in the gaps in our knowledge, proposed studies should measure and monitor behavioral, emotional and cognitive changes," says Faden. "We need to know whether the human cells have an effect on cognition, but right now, the experts aren’t even quite sure what ’normal’ is for some of these primates. These studies should have a component to look into that question."

Faden says the panel’s work, started more than two years ago, complements the recent report on stem cell research by the National Academy of Sciences. The NAS report called for in-depth consideration of the ethics of implantation of human stem cells into the brains of non-human primates.

The panel’s work was part of the Program for Cell Engineering, Ethics and Public Policy of the Berman Bioethics Institute and the Institute for Cell Engineering at Johns Hopkins. The work was funded by grants from the Greenwall Foundation.

Authors on the paper and members of the panel are Mark Greene of the University of Delaware; Kathryn Schill of Case Western Reserve University; Shoji Takahashi, Hilary Bok, Peter Donovan, Lee Martin, Andrew Siegel, John Gearhart, Guy McKhann and Ruth Faden of Johns Hopkins; Alison Bateman-House of Columbia University; Thomas Beauchamp of Georgetown University; Dorothy Cheney of the University of Pennsylvania; Joseph Coyle of Harvard University; Terrence Deacon of the University of California at Berkeley; Daniel Dennett of Tufts University; Owen Flanagan of Duke University; Steven Goldman of the University of Rochester; Henry Greely of Stanford University; Earl Miller of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Dawn Mueller of the University of Maryland; and Davor Solter of the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology.

Joanna Downer | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.jhmi.edu
http://www.sciencemag.org

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht A Map of the Cell’s Power Station
18.08.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

nachricht On the way to developing a new active ingredient against chronic infections
18.08.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für Infektionsforschung

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A Map of the Cell’s Power Station

18.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Engineering team images tiny quasicrystals as they form

18.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Researchers printed graphene-like materials with inkjet

18.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>