Objections to Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells Vetted

by Jennifer Lahl, CBC President on October 15, 2012

Recently, I was tagged on twitter about a blog post entitled “Pro-Life Objections to Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells.” On a number of occasions, especially when I screen our documentary film Lines That Divide: The Great Stem Cell Debate, I am asked the questions this post raises. That’s when I turn to the various experts CBC depends on to vet the science. In this particular instance I turned to my colleague, Dr. David Prentice, who was so kind to offer these helpful thoughts. With his permission, I pass them along to you.

Objection 1- iPSC could be used for cloning.
So could Adult stem cells, or any other cell in the body. As far as the tetraploid complementation (you stick a cell inside a group of cells that have formed the trophoblast layer of an early embryo, and the inserted cell forms the embryo itself) that too could be done with adult stem cells. But the frequency of success at getting a born “clone” is extremely low, similar to SCNT cloning. This is not an argument against iPSC, but how they might be used.

Objection 2- viruses or DNA used in iPSC creation were from fetal tissue.
It’s true that some of the early experiments, and some that continue today, make the viruses in fetal tissue, but that’s not a requirement for iPSC creation. It’s a convenience or preference or habit of that particular scientist. They could just as well have used adult tissue or DNA.
This is an argument against some of the tools, but not against the technique.

Objection 3- iPSC no good for patients.
This one may indeed be true, since like ESC, they like to grow and make tumors. That’s the test used to see if they are pluripotent, if they form a tumor in a mouse. But they could still be useful in lab studies, disease models, drug screening. This is not an ethical argument against iPSC and Adult stem cells are doing the patient treatments now.

Objection 4- iPSC can be used to generate gametes.
Yes, just as ESC have been, though those gametes are questionable in their maturity and function. And in fact, Adult stem cells have also been used to generate gametes.
This is an argument against how iPSC might be used, not a valid argument against iPSC.

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