Pluripotent stem cells: medical dream or ethical nightmare?

human neural stem cells  GE Healthcare from Flickr

human neural stem cells GE Healthcare from Flickr

Paul Fairchild, University of Oxford, to give a public seminar tomorrow, 21 February, discussing this topical issue.

The scale of the medical challenges that an ageing population poses for healthcare in the 21st century will require radical solutions, of which the harnessing of pluripotency through the derivation of human embryonic stem (ES) cells represents a promising strategy. Nevertheless, the ethical dilemma created by the use of human embryos in order to access pluripotency, continues to raise issues.

This seminar, hosted by The Faraday Institute, will attempt to draw some general principles from the speaker’s personal journey of reconciling a deep Christian faith with the moral dilemmas raised by reproductive and stem cell and technologies. In particular, it will explore whether the destruction of human embryos can ever be justified by the magnitude of the likely benefits, and whether the sanctioning of ES cell derivation might inadvertently create further ethical challenges, such as human therapeutic cloning.

Fairchild began his research career in Oxford, where he studied for a DPhil within the Nuffield Department of Surgery, focussing on the immune response to organ allografts. After spending five years as a Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Department of Pathology, University of Cambridge, he returned to Oxford where he is currently a Lecturer and RCUK Academic Fellow within the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, and co-Director of the Oxford Stem Cell Institute. Fairchild has applied his immunological training to the emerging field of cell replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has published widely in the field and is a frequent speaker at international conferences.

’Pluripotent Stem Cells: Medical Dream or Ethical Nightmare?’

Tuesday 21 February, 1pm (buffet lunch from 12.30pm)

The Garden Room, St. Edmund’s College, Cambridge

Free entry, no need to book

Additionally, on 6 March, The Faraday Institute will host Rice University’s Elaine Ecklund for a research seminar titled ‘The Religious Beliefs of Scientists – a Sociological Analysis’. From 2005-2009 Ecklund completed the most comprehensive study to date of how US scientists at top universities understand religion, spirituality, and ethics. She is now beginning a new, international study that includes Britain, which will survey 10,000 scientists on their understanding of the relationship between science and religion, and how religion and spirituality influence their work and decisions. Her seminar will include some preliminary data from randomly questioned anonymised cohorts of scientists in Oxford and Cambridge.

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