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WHITE PAPER: Alternative Sources of Pluripotent Stem Cells

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Letter of Transmittal

The President's Council on Bioethics
1801 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Suite 700
Washington, D.C. 20006

May 10, 2005

The President
The White House
Washington, D.C.

Dear Mr. President:

I am pleased to present to you Alternative Sources of Human Pluripotent Stem Cells, a White Paper of the President's Council on Bioethics.Since the publication of our report, Monitoring Stem Cell Research, in January of 2004, the Council has continued to ponder and discuss the ethical challenges posed by human embryonic stem cell research and the demands of scientists to develop new human embryonic stem cell lines. While they may well in the future prove to be of considerable scientific and therapeutic value, new human embryonic stem cell lines cannot at present be obtained without destroying human embryos. As a consequence, the worthy goals of increasing scientific knowledge and developing therapies for grave human illnesses come into conflict with the strongly held belief of many Americans that human life, from its earliest stages, deserves our protection and respect.
Seeking to advance biomedical science while upholding ethical norms, the Council has taken a keen interest in recent suggestions that science itself might provide a way around this ethical dilemma. Accordingly, we have been looking into ways of obtaining pluripotent, genetically stable, and long-lived human stem cells (the functional equivalent of human embryonic stem cells) that do not involve creating, destroying, or harming human embryos. We have found that there are, broadly speaking, four such possible approaches: stem cells might be obtainable from dead embryos; from living embryos, by non-destructive biopsy; from bioengineered embryo-like artifacts; and from reprogrammed adult somatic cells. In this White Paper, we introduce each of these four approaches and offer a preliminary analysis of their strengths and weaknesses, ethical, scientific, and practical.
While different members of the Council assess the merits of the four proposals differently, the Council shares the view that the group of proposals here discussed-and others like them that they may stimulate-deserve the nation's careful and serious consideration. We offer this White Paper both to enrich and inform public discussion of the ethical dimensions of stem cell research and especially to encourage scientists to explore these and other possible ways to press forward with pluripotent stem cell research in ways that all Americans can wholeheart-edly support.
Mr. President, allow me to join my Council colleagues and our fine staff in thanking you for this opportunity to offer you and the American people our assistance in the critical efforts to promote a biomedical science that will simultaneously serve human needs and preserve human dignity.

Leon Kass signature
Leon R. Kass, M.D.


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