Supporting the responsible pursuit of stem cell research

Stem cells have the capacity to become any cell in the body without being able to develop into a complete human being; they are immortal and seem to be able to divide without limitation; and they can be genetically manipulated with great ease, which gives them enormous therapeutic utility. Given the scientific and medical benefits that are likely result from this research, the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation supports the responsible pursuit of all stem cell research, including human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research.

There are at least three basic opportunities presented by embryonic stem cell research. First, it could lead to the development of innovative replacement or transplantation therapies for diseases and disorders such as spinal cord injuries, diabetes, heart disease, and Parkinson's disease. Second, hESC research can provide a deeper understanding of how organisms, including human beings, develop that will enable scientists to better elucidate ways the body might repair itself. And third, stem cells can be used as a surrogate in the screening and testing of drugs.

The Reeve Foundation recognizes that responsible stem cell research involves the careful orchestration of scientific and ethical issues and it believes that theNational Academies of Science 2008 Amendment to 2005 Guidelines for Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research strike a proper balance.

Two reports published in July 2009 present data from two teams of Japanese researchers working separately who have reprogrammed mature skin cells of mice to an embryonic-like state and used the resulting cells to create live mouse offspring. The journal articles follow-up on three 2007 year-end publications that report studies reprogramming human skin cells to revert back to what appear to be human embryonic stem cells (called IPS, induced pluripotent stem cells).

They also underscored the very real need to continue push forward on all fronts. The early promise of the IPS technology is far from being fully realized and much remains to be learned from the study of all stem cells.

The Foundation believes that the responsible, unfettered pursuit of all stem cell research will lead to the development of rational therapies for many diseases and disorders.

Resources on stem cell research