In this entry we review the ethical and legal issues that arise in the context of stem cell research and therapy. Stem cells have attracted both immense scientific interest and equal ethical and legal concern because of their capacity to "specialize" and become virtually any part of the organism into which they are introduced. Thus if introduced into the brain they become brain cells, if into the cardiovascular system they become cells of that type and so on. They also appear to be able to trigger cell regeneration and colonize damaged tissue effecting "repair" in situ. Thus if such cells are made compatible with the genome of a host using cloning techniques they could in principle repair and regenerate damaged tissue and halt or even cure many diseases. This holds out both great promise and causes great unease in equal measure. Here we examine both the scientific promise and the extent to which ethical and legal safeguards may be appropriate.
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