News & Information

Aida's Secrets, Ethics of Stem Cell Organ Regeneration

Top of Mind with Julie Rose
  • Sep 2, 2016 11:00 pm
  • 1:42:09

Aida's Secrets Guests: Alon Schwarz, director of the new film “Aida’s Secrets,” US release in early 2017; Laurence Harris, Head of Genealogy,   Separation, reunion and decades-old secrets. The new film “Aida’s Secrets” is a family documentary and a suspenseful mystery in which a genealogist plays the role of lead gumshoe.  Two brothers, born in a camp for displaced persons in Germany shortly after World War II, were separated as babies. One grew up with an adopted family in Israel, the other with his father and stepmother in Canada. Neither knew of the other’s existence until they were in their 70s.  Stem Cells - Organs and Ethics Guests: Alonzo Cook, PhD, professor of Chemical Engineering, BYU; Martin Tristani-Firouzi, MD, pediatric cardiologist and research scientist, University of Utah School of Medicine The ethical debate over stem cells in the early 2000s focused on where the cells came from. At the time, the most powerful stem cells used in research were derived from human embryos discarded by couples undergoing fertility treatment. President George W. Bush restricted federal funding for research using such stem cells because they required the “destruction of human life.” Scientists have since discovered ways to obtain stem cells that do not involve human embryos. So now the ethical debate has shifted to focus not on where the cells come from, but where they will go. Imagine if human stem cells could be implanted in a pig embryo that would then grow up with a human kidney in its belly. And after the pig incubates the kidney, it is transplanted into the person with kidney disease who donated the stem cells for that very purpose. That would be incredible, but also fraught with new ethical questions: What if some of those human stem cells also ended up in the pig’s brain and it became super-smart? Researchers treat animal and human subjects differently. How should they treat something that’s part-animal, part-human?   The National Institutes of Health is at this moment working out new guidelines to deal with the thorny ethics of this new frontier in stem cell research.  This hour we’re considering the ethic questions, as well as the range of advancements in stem cell research for creating and regenerating human organs and tissue.