[Ethical aspects of stem cell research. Legislation and guidelines in Europe]
Author/s: -Hovatta, O. -Ahrlund-Richter, L.
Research on different types of stem cells is of major interest because of its apparent very promising therapeutic prospects, such as for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, spinal cord injuries, stroke, diabetes, cardiac failure, liver failure, cartilage injuries, severe blood diseases, cancer etc. Stem cells can be derived from different sources: adult tissue, foetal tissues, and from in vitro fertilised embryos. Depending on their origin they have varying capacity to multiply and differentiate to other cell types. It is at present not possible to predict which types of cells will be best suitable for various therapeutic situations. Embryonic stem cells have been shown capable of differentiating into all the different tissues and cell types of the body, but they cannot form a new individual. Because of the ethics question involved, The European Group on Ethics on Science and New Technologies for the European Commission and Parliament (EGE), and the Ethics Committee of the Nordic Council of Ministers have prepared reports and given guidelines for research on stem cells. According to the guidelines, every country should regulate the research. Only embryos, which cannot be used in infertility treatment, and have been donated for research, can be used. Creation of embryos solely for research purposes, including somatic cell nuclear transfer, is not regarded as acceptable for the time being. Both partners of the donating couple have to sign an informed consent document. Ongoing research in Sweden is well in line with these European and Nordic recommendations.