New research has shown that living cells can be harvested from cadavers for days, and maybe even weeks, after death. These cells can then be reprogrammed into pluripotent stem cells and used in stem cell research. This new development is important because, as the article states, “[c]adavers can provide brain, heart and other tissues for study that researchers cannot safely obtain from living people.” In particular, scientists hope to use the new stem cell source to further research neuropsychiatric disorders.
Not only does cadaver-related stem cell research expand the possibilities of stem cell research and its application in medicine, but it may raise fewer ethical concerns than embryonic stem cell research. Although some may find the use of cadavers to be unsettling, it is less problematic than embryonic research because scientists are using the body of someone that wanted to make a donation for the purpose of science, not creating and ending a life in a lab. Clearly, there needs to be legal protection in place to prevent unethical behavior, such as harvesting cells from those who did not donate their bodies to science, but the science may face less resistance on the legal and ethical fronts than embryonic stem cell research.
The article can be found here.