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December 14, 2001

Stem cell research ethics discussed at faculty retreat

Ethical issues surrounding stem cell research will be debated at a faculty-staff retreat from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 10, at The Hotel at Gateway Center, Ames.

"The retreat is an occasion for us to explore the stem cell issue in depth," said Gary Comstock, coordinator of ISU's bioethics program. "Many scientists believe research in this area is valuable, but they must be responsive to the public's concerns. Our faculty are very interested in helping students think through the issues comprehensively and objectively."

Because stem cells can become different kinds of cells, they hold promise to treat diseases and injuries by generating new tissues or organs. They have been controversial because human fetal tissue is one source for research.

The topic is particularly timely, Comstock said, in light of the recent news that a company has cloned a human embryo, an experiment the company said could lead to treatments for diseases such as Parkinson's and child diabetes.

Speaking at the retreat will be Robert Streiffer, a nationally recognized teacher of ethics at the University of Wisconsin. Streiffer works with a group of ISU faculty on a USDA-funded project to address economic, ethical and social aspects of agricultural biotechnology.

Two ISU faculty members also will speak. Don Sakaguchi, zoology and genetics, conducts research with mice stem cells to understand how the cells may be used to repair nerve damage. He will discuss the ethical dimensions of research on stem cells. Adah Leshem-Ackerman, zoology and genetics, will present a case study on stem cells and ethics that she wrote after attending the International Bioethics Institute in Portugal last summer.

More information about the retreat is online at

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Published by: University Relations,
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