The Embryonic Stem Cell: Ethics, Law & Science - Genetic Engineering.

 

Lewis Wolpert, the South African-borne scientist, once famously stated that it is not birth, marriage, or death, but gastrulation, which is truly the most important time in your life.

(1986) - adopted from BlogCatalog.

The nuclear potency series of experiments in developmental biology has been employed with immense effect in model theory through an array of ever smart vectors, regulatory and structural genomic elements introduced into the genome of embryonic stem cells. Animal models are created, employing genetic engineering: the design as well as construction of such vectors, regulatory and structural elements toward gene function assessment. The series has been suitably applied toward gene discovery using such molecular, tagging tools as promoter trapping and gene trapping. Gene Knockout technology, for example, has been invaluable in loss of gene function studies, including the elucidation of the role of tumor suppressor genes in cancer. Transgenes have similarly been spliced to stem cells for careful spatial and temporal assessment of gain of gene function during development utilizing Gene Knockin technology.

 

The overall implication of such series of experiments may be far-reaching. One is, for example, able to discover new genes and create animal models toward the study of gene function, the modeling of basic gene function; create the versatile-cum-smart stem cells as well as attendant transgenic pharmaceuticals toward gene therapy, including proteins and metabolites for immune system dysfunction - production of transgenic antibodies for containment of pathogens. This may be deployed as pathogen-binding antibodies, complementing viral RNA binding therapy where this may be limiting during administration; creation of transgenic antigens as transgenic vaccines; transgenic hearts and tissue for heart disease; transgenic insulin or pancreas for diabetes; transgenic neuronal replacement in neuroscience and medicine - learning and memory; similarly, Parkinson's or Alzheimers disease remedy. The nuclear potency series naturally entails the study and therapy of cancer or kidney disease.

 

Stem cells may be employed variously for reproductive cloning as well as therapeutic cloning. Stem cells may, as a result, be customized as specialized cells toward an array of approaches toward Regenerative Medicine with oocyte enucleation and nuclear transfer technology; utilizing essentially the primary totipotent stem cell (blastomere) carrying totipotent genes; pluripotent stem cell, derived from the blastocyst's inner cell mass, ICM; adult somatic cell for genetic reprogramming, the creation of iPS, induced pluripotent stem cell [in fact, Somatic Resurrection]. Such cells may be similarly transferred to tetraploid blastocysts for self-creation of protein, cells, tissues, organs; whole organisms. Nuclear transfer, palpably, serves as an ingenious, versatile, multipurpose platform for microsurgery and embryo reconstitution as genetic engineering. Dolly was, in fact, created using the induction of adult somatic cells as totipotent stem cells using nuclear transfer. Nuclear Transfer is, as a result, applied toward organogenesis and generation or resurrection of entire organisms - a naturally fitting application - under a socially sanctioned climate, with respect to law, polity and ethics. It actualizes gene therapy, organ transplantation or endangered species recovery. All the foregoing technologies also serve as ex situ gene preservation and evaluation - insurance against environmental collapse of a healthy, living planet.

 

There is, nonetheless, understandable concern about stem cells and its application with respect to ethics, law as well as science. The state of the art science and technology, fortunately, has become increasingly lucid about the delineation of scientific observation with respect to heresy. The dichotomy of perception may be resolved by taking a close look at the science of mammalian development. Mammalian development is mostly constituted of cell structure and function beginning with fertilization through gastrulation.

Gastrulation's defining attribute is the primitive streak which engenders and initiates cellular communication and self-organization into the creation of the three germ layers - ectoderm, mesoderm and endoderm which derive all organs. Most importantly, gastrulation is the first stage in mammalian development wherein a primordial nervous system and sentience are created.

Gastrulation, as a function of its very unique architecture and function, also serves as the truly magical stage in nuclear transfer and stem cell science as it offers and guarantees an alternative approach to creation of animal models for gene function studies; metabolites, protein, tissues, or organs; endangered species recovery toward ecosystem restoration and attendant sustainability.

The foregoing scientific observation ought to, perhaps, allay or dispel truly understandable concerns about the application of stem cell science. It should, therefore, serve to appropriately steer and promulgate public policy, law and ethical guidelines about the wise employment of the science. The British parliament, for example, has already enacted a stem cell law based essentially on this treatise. This act of parliament may serve as a model elsewhere to chart expeditiously the way forward for this classical field of scholarship which will inevitably enjoy renaissance, much less unprecedented scientific revolution, in gene therapy and, more critically, regenerative medicine. This endeavor may ultimately encompass nearly all fields of medicine.

Author: Nom de plume: Sam Chire

Regular name: John Mkandawire