I received this file via email from the Stanford Journal of Law Science & Policy via Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics

Insoo Hyun, Wenlin Li, & Sheng Ding (2010). Scientific and ethical reasons why iPS cell research must proceed with human embryonic stem cell research. Stanford Journal of Law Science & Policy Published online 2010.

My review of the article

The discovery that transfection of several genes can transform skin cells to induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells transformed stem cell research. The discovery allows scientists to create pluripotent stem cells for study and therapy. Does this not relieve us of the ethical burden of allowing embryonic stem cells? After all, why mess around with embryos unless you have to? Indeed, given the onerous paperwork and paucity of funds for embryonic stem cell research in the United States, droves of scientists moved into iPS research.

Hyun, et al. have written a useful and important article explaining why human embryonic stem cell research and induced pluripotent stem cell research should be carried out together, both from an ethical and a scientific perspective. First, they point out that much is still not known about human embryonic stem cells and the extent to which iPS cells differ from or resemble human embryonic stem cells. The latter is the real McCoy. Do the former retain epigenetic memories of their former selves? Second, the safety of transplanting iPS cells for therapy is still very much in question. Will the cells "de-differentiate" to become pluripotent and pose a risk of teratoma formation? Is it safe to use viruses to create iPS cell lines and are iPS cells and their derivatives stable? Third, it is important to compare human embryonic stem cells derived from somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) with iPS cells to see if there are differences. Finally, they argue that the availability of iPS cells do not affect the ethical permissibility of human embryonic stem cell research.

Hyun, et al. anticipate and, in my opinion probably rightly so, that those who want to abolish human embryonic stem cells will argue that there is no longer any need to study embryonic stem cells. This essay provides a solid rationale and ethical basis for continuing embryonic stem cell research.