EU warns of stem cells

Do not use the word stem, talk about regenerative medicine instead. That’s the advice given to Swedish researchers from Arnd Hoevel the EU Directorate for Research in Brussels.


The term stem cell is too loaded to be used towards the general public. It says Arnd Hoevel, head of the Health and biotechnology at the EU Directorate for Research in Brussels.

– There are a lot of antibodies to the word stem, he says. I think you should instead use the term regenerative medicine against the EU’s population.

Within the EU there are several research programs on stem cells and how they should be used to develop advanced therapies for severe diseases. But to speak plainly to the public is a sensitive chapter, said Arnd Hoevel at the stem cell conference this week was held in Gothenburg.

The background is the moral-ethical debate about stem cells that collapsed during the early 2000s.Then came all the stem cells from a few days old embryos left over from IVF and were discarded. The cells were taken just to be where the parents gave their consent.

The hope was to get the immature cells that develop into the specialized cells needed to cure serious diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. But having human life as starting material runs counter to include Christian values that all life is sacred, and led to a stormy ethical debate whether it is right to destroy embryos to find cures for the seriously ill.

For two years, there is a new type of stem cells and the embryo appears to have potential to develop into all cell types. They are called iPS cells, and produced by reprogramming skin or blood cells so that they go backwards in their development to eventually become a stem cell.

From there, they can be programmed to become nerve cells, heart muscle cells or another cell type that is needed to repair a damaged organs or cure diseases.Still there are no clinical treatments, but research is intense in Europe as well as outside.

But the EU has the memory and the worry over the charge in the word stem not faded.

– IPS cells can probably be accepted in many countries. But I still think it is better to talk about regenerative medicine instead, says Arnd Hoevel.


Immature stem cell origin of cell that has the ability to develop into many different specialized cells.

Embryonic stem cell. Available in fertilized eggs that are less than one week.The first few days, all stem cells develop into was the new embryo, after a week they have had time to specialize more. Embryonic stem cells taken from embryos five to seven days after fertilization.

IPS cells (induced pluripotent stem cells). Fully developed cells after gene transfer gone backwards in their development and become a stem cell (immature cell origin) again.

Regenerative medicine: A collective name for methods that replace damaged cells or tissues in the body with new cells. Today the focus of much research in the field of stem cells.



2011-06-20 NEWS
About Michael Zand

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