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Stem Cells For Dummies®

Table of Contents

Introduction

About This Book

Conventions Used in This Book

What You’re Not to Read

Foolish Assumptions

How This Book Is Organized

Part I: Brushing Up on Biology

Part II: Delving into Stem Cell Science

Part III: Discovering How Stem Cells Can Affect the Future

Part IV: Putting Stem Cells to Use Today

Part V: Understanding the Debate: Ethics, Laws, and Money

Part VI: The Part of Tens

Icons Used in This Book

Where to Go from Here

Part I: Brushing Up on Biology

Chapter 1: Painting the Broad Strokes of Stem Cell Science

Working with Animals and Other Organisms

Understanding the mouse’s role in stem cell research

Using mice in today’s labs

Exploring What Scientists Know (And Don’t Know) About Stem Cells

Understanding stem cells’ key properties

Confirming that cells really are stem cells

Figuring out how to use stem cells

Looking at some unanswered questions

Chapter 2: Understanding Cells and Tissues

Exploring Cell Structure and Function

Sizing cells

Decoding cell messages: DNA and RNA

Covering entrances and exits: How things get in and out of cells

Understanding how cells communicate

Building Tissues and Organs

Comparing Stem Cells to Other Kinds of Cells

Chapter 3: Tracing the History of Stem Cell Research

Regenerating Body Parts: Legends, Tales, and Truths

Taking a look at ancient regeneration myths

Looking at animals that can regenerate

You do it, too: Regenerating human skin and blood

Discovering the Genetic Controls in Cells

Comparing ideas about heredity

Understanding DNA

Mapping the genetic library

Discovering growth factors

Identifying stem cells

Recapping Developments Since the 1950s

Transplanting organs and tissues

Developing in vitro fertilization

Cloning animals

Part II: Delving into Stem Cell Science

Chapter 4: Starting with Embryonic Stem Cells

Exploring the Stages of Embryonic Development

Looking at the Role of In Vitro Fertilization in Creating Blastocysts

Growing Embryonic Stem Cells from Extra Blastocysts

Exploring Embryonic Stem Cell Properties

Growing and growing and growing . . .

Generating any kind of cell

Making Cells and Tissues

Directing cell specialization

Growing pure cells

Touring the Lab: What Scientists Are Doing with Embryonic Stem Cells

Looking at examples of current research

Creating a basis for future research

Understanding the Possibilities and Limitations of Embryonic Stem Cells

What embryonic stem cells can do

What embryonic stem cells can’t do

What embryonic stem cells may be able to do

Chapter 5: Understanding Adult Stem Cells

Demonstrating the Existence of Tissue Stem Cells

Defining Adult Stem Cells (And the Problem with Definitions)

Exploring the Abilities of Adult Stem Cells

Understanding how they work

Figuring out their uses and limitations

Finding Stem Cells in Tissues

In bone marrow

In the brain

Miscellaneous adult stem cells

Exploring Cord Blood Stem Cells

Working with Adult Stem Cells

Chapter 6: Exploring Other Stem Cell Sources

Why the Uproar?

Understanding Nuclear Transfer Techniques

Getting inside somatic cell nuclear transfer

Bringing embryo development to a halt with altered nuclear transfer

Exploring Other Techniques for Generating Pluripotent Cells

Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis

Males need not apply: Parthenogenesis

Investigating Other Pluripotent Cell Types

Collecting stem cells from tumors

Exploring reproductive sources of pluripotent cells

Engineering stem cells

Chapter 7: Understanding Why Scientists Mix and Match Cells

Exploring Hybrids

Creating stronger versions of species

Using hybrids in the lab

Decoding Chimeras

Finding the chimera within

Using chimeras to improve medicine

Comprehending Clones

Using cloning methods to develop therapies

Using cloning for research

Understanding the difficulties of cloning primates

Discovering Cybrids

Using cybrids to understand development and disease

Understanding the Uproar over Cell-Swapping Technology

Part III: Discovering How Stem Cells Can Affect the Future

Chapter 8: Looking into Cancer’s Cradle: Cancer Stem Cells

Battling the Age-Old War on Cancer

Understanding What Cancer Is

Changing cells’ genetic instructions

Losing control of growth

Cheating death

Breaking out of tissue jail

Exploring the Idea of Cancer Stem Cells

Figuring out differences in cancer cells

Discovering similarities in normal and cancerous stem cells

Connecting Cancer, Stem Cells, and Possible Therapies

Chapter 9: Using Stem Cells to Understand and Treat Neurodegenerative Diseases

Understanding Neurodegenerative Diseases

Attacking Alzheimer’s Disease

Figuring out what happens in Alzheimer’s

Testing cause-and-effect theories in clinical trials

Exploring genetic causes of Alzheimer’s

Bringing stem cells into Alzheimer’s research

Treating Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS)

Understanding why ALS is so difficult to treat

Using stem cells to find new drugs and save motor neurons

Fighting Batten Disease

Finding Treatments for Cerebral Palsy

Getting a Grip on Huntington’s Disease

Tackling Niemann-Pick Disease

Treating Parkinson’s Disease

Understanding what happens in the Parkinson’s brain

Using stem cells to replace critical brain cells and seek drug treatments

Creating New Treatments for Spinal Cord Injuries

Limiting the Effects of Stroke

Chapter 10: Improving Therapies for Diseases of the Heart, Liver, and Pancreas

Different Diseases, Common Problems

Getting to the Core of Heart Disease

Using stem cells to look for new treatments

Looking at a current clinical trial involving stem cells

Considering challenges to using stem cell treatments for heart disease

Looking into Potential Treatments for Liver Disease

Treating Diseases of the Pancreas

Investigating stem cell therapies for Type 1 diabetes

Exploring stem cell treatment ideas for Type 2 diabetes

Chapter 11: Improving Drug Development

Weighing the Pros and Cons of Current Drug Treatments

Doing their job well

Bringing along unwanted guests

Looking at Why Drugs Are So Expensive

Finding promising drug-like chemicals

Proving a drug’s safety and effectiveness

Getting the regulatory green light

Getting Stem Cells into the Act

Part IV: Putting Stem Cells to Use Today

Chapter 12: Where We Are Now: Stem Cell Treatments, Trials, and Possibilities

Looking at Treatments That Work Well Now

Using bone marrow transplants in leukemia

Grafting skin to treat burns

Assessing Treatments Currently Being Tested

Going after other cancers

Keeping heart disease at bay

Treating multiple sclerosis

Easing the effects of Type 1 diabetes

Attacking lupus

Investigating Promising Leads

Improving function in patients with spinal cord injury

Finding a treatment for Batten Disease

Exploring the Human Potential in Animal Treatments

Understanding the Challenges of Clinical Trials and Experimental Treatments

Understanding safety issues

Racing the clock

Chapter 13: Understanding the Role of Stem Cells in Transplants

Exploring Circumstances When Stem Cell Transplant Is Appropriate

Understanding the Challenges in Stem Cell Transplants

Choosing a source of stem cells

Finding and matching donors

Overcoming the body’s immune response

Preventing disease relapse

Going Through the Stages: What Happens in a Stem Cell Transplant

Evaluating the potential transplant patient

Preparing your body for the procedure

Receiving the transplant

Waiting for old and new to work together

Seeing How It Works: Becoming a Donor

Donating blood-forming stem cells

Donating solid organs and tissues

Signing up to donate

Understanding the Current State of Transplant Medicine

Chapter 14: Putting Stem Cells in the Bank

Examining Medical Uses of Cord Blood

Understanding How Cord Blood Banking Works

Weighing the pros and cons of private and public banks

Making a deposit

Knowing what can go wrong

Conducting Due Diligence: What You Need to Know in Choosing to Bank

Exploring standards of practice

Finding the right bank for you

Exploring the Future of Stem Cell Banking

Part V: Understanding the Debate: Ethics, Laws, and Money

Chapter 15: Exploring Ethical, Religious, Philosophical, and Moral Questions

Deciding When Personhood Begins

Considering definitions of personhood

“Living and human” versus “living human”

“Cooperating with Evil” — Another Ethical Dilemma

Looking at the Ethical Views of Creating Embryos, Clones, and Chimeras

Exploring the Questions on Fetal Tissue Research

Understanding the Ethical Concerns of Genetic Testing and Manipulation

Tracing the history of eugenics

Looking at genetic testing

Dissecting the Goals of Stem Cell Research

Chapter 16: Getting a Handle on Current Stem Cell Laws and Policies

Exploring the Relationship between Science and Government

Looking at the relationship between funding and regulation in the United States

Providing funding

Encouraging basic research and innovation

Regulating for safety

Restricting questionable practices

Understanding General Political Pressures

Exploring Stem Cell Policies in Individual States

Looking at What Other Countries Are Doing with Stem Cell Research

Exploring the Roles of Science and Medical Societies

Chapter 17: Following the Money: Understanding Stem Cell Funding and Profits

Taking a Look at Funding in the United States

Looking at Government Funding

Considering arguments for and against government funding

Exploring how federal money can advance stem cell research

Understanding Academic Funding

Getting Private Foundations Involved

Understanding the Role of Private Industry

Establishing Ownership Through Patents and Licenses

Understanding how patents work

Exploring patents in stem cell research

Looking at objections to the WARF patents

Cutting through patent thickets

Seeing how patents affect funding

Part VI: The Part of Tens

Chapter 18: Ten (or So) Stem Cell Myths

Stem Cells Come Only from Aborted Fetuses

Embryos Are Created Just to Be Destroyed

Stem Cells from Adults Can Do Everything Embryonic Stem Cells Can

Researchers Don’t Need to Create Any More Embryonic Stem Cell Lines

Advances in Drug Therapies Eliminate the Need for Stem Cell Research

Stem Cell Research Will Lead to Human Cloning

If the Research Were Really So Powerful, Private Companies Would Fund It

Stem Cells from Adults Are Already Curing Many Diseases

Nothing Has Yet Come Out of Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Hope Equals Hype

President Bush Banned Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Chapter 19: Ten Hurdles to Stem Cell Use

Knowing Whether Stem Cells Can Actually Fix What Ails You

Cultivating Enough Cells

Getting the Right Cells for the Job

Eliminating Unwanted Cells

Matching Cells and Patients

Delivering Cells to Their Destination

Keeping Track of Cells

Ensuring Safety

Setting Up Clinical Trials

Figuring Out Healthcare Delivery

Chapter 20: Ten Possibilities for the Future of Stem Cells

Fighting and Winning the War on Cancer

Developing Drugs that Tell Your Stem Cells What to Do

Growing Replacement Tissues in the Lab

Healing Spinal Cord Injuries

Improving Treatments for Huntington’s, Lou Gehrig’s, and Parkinson’s Disease

Helping Stroke Victims

Beating Multiple Sclerosis

Reversing Retinal Degeneration

Fixing a Broken Heart

Assisting Diabetes Patients

Chapter 21: Ten (or So) Things to Do Before You Consider Stem Cell Treatment

Look for Independent Oversight and Regulation of the Clinic

Understand Your Disease and Why the Treatment Might Work

Find Out How the Treatment Was Developed

Know What You’re Getting with Experimental Treatments

Ask About Risks and Side Effects

Look for Valid Confirmation

Beware of Patient Testimonials

Watch Out for Hidden Costs

Get a Second (and Third) Reputable, Expert Opinion

Make Sure That Your Consent Really Is Informed

Know How to Spot Scams and Charlatans

Chapter 22: Ten (or So) Great Resources to Stay Up to Date

National Academies/National Academy of Sciences

National Institutes of Health

International Society for Stem Cell Research

Harvard Stem Cell Institute

University of California–San Diego Stem Cell Initiative

NIH Clinical Trials Registry

National Bone Marrow Program/C.W. Bill Young Cell Transplantation Program

The Nobel Foundation

American Society of Reproductive Medicine

National Bioethics Panels

Stem Cell News Sites

Glossary

Stem Cells For Dummies®

Lawrence S.B. Goldstein, PhD, and Meg Schneider

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About the Authors

Lawrence S.B. Goldstein, PhD: Larry Goldstein, director of the University of California–San Diego Stem Cell Program, is one of the United States’ foremost experts in stem cell research. He has studied genetics and cellular development for 35 years and has an active laboratory research program studying Alzheimer’s and Lou Gehrig’s disease and possible uses of embryonic stem cells and their derivatives in treating these diseases. He has played an active role in national science policy, having served on many public scientific advisory committees. He has testified on a number of occasions before the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate about National Institutes of Health funding and stem cell research. He also served as co-chair of the scientific advisory committee to the campaign for the Proposition 71 stem cell research initiative, which authorized $3 billion in tax-free state bonds to fund stem cell research in California over 10 years. As a cofounder and consultant of the biotechnology company Cytokinetics, he also has had an active role in private industry, where he has gained experience in translating scientific insights into new therapeutic approaches.

In addition to the directorship of the Stem Cell Program, Larry is Professor of Cellular and Molecular Medicine at the UCSD School of Medicine and an Investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Before moving to UCSD, he was assistant, associate, and full professor at Harvard University’s Department of Cellular and Developmental Biology.

He received his B.A. degree in biology and genetics from UCSD in 1976 and his PhD degree in genetics from the University of Washington, Seattle, in 1980. He did postdoctoral research at the University of Colorado at Boulder and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

His awards include a Senior Scholar Award from the Ellison Medical Foundation, an American Cancer Society Faculty Research Award, the Loeb Chair in Natural Sciences when he was at Harvard University, election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the 2009 Public Service Award from the American Society for Cell Biology.

Meg Schneider: Meg Schneider is an award-winning writer who has authored or coauthored ten books, including Making Millions For Dummies (Wiley), Budget Weddings For Dummies (Wiley), New York Yesterday & Today (Voyageur), and The Good-For-You Marriage (Adams Media).

Meg’s journalism honors include awards from the Iowa Associated Press Managing Editors, the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association, the New York State Associated Press, and the William Randolph Hearst Foundation.

A native of Iowa, Meg now lives in upstate New York.

Dedication

Larry dedicates this book to the many people who need the insights and therapies that scientific and medical research aim to find.

Meg dedicates this book to Marjorie Boeger, who thinks Meg is smarter than she really is, and whose guts and gusto are an eternal inspiration.

Authors' Acknowledgments

Although our names appear on the cover, we can’t claim sole credit for this book. Publishing is a team sport. Those who think they played but a minor role did more heavy lifting than they realize, and we would be remiss if we didn’t give them a shout-out for their contributions.

We offer our thanks and appreciation to the following people:

The folks at Wiley, for recognizing the importance of arming readers with accurate, plain-English information about stem cells and for supporting this book to fill that need.

Our editors, Michael Lewis and Kelly Ewing, for their vision, patience, and dedication.

Our agent, Barb Doyen, for bringing us together on this project and acting as business partner, cheerleader, coach, and friend.

Mark Dixon, for (once again) standing at the ready throughout the process, administering support, comfort, and ice cream as needed.

Connie Holm, for advice, support, and inexhaustible patience.

Our friends and colleagues Juan Carlos Izpisua-Belmonte, Paul Berg, Sylvia Evans, Fred “Rusty” Gage, Catriona Jamieson, Lynda Heaney, Olle Lindvall, Sean Morrison, Jim Spudich, Kevin Wilson, and Laurie Zoloth, who provided vital encouragement to undertake and complete this project and who helped immensely with advice and input about science, ethics, medicine, law, business, regulation, and policy, and ways to present this material in as understandable and accurate a way as possible. Of course, any errors of fact, presentation, or interpretation are ours alone.

Publisher’s Acknowledgments

We’re proud of this book; please send us your comments through our online registration form located at http://dummies.custhelp.com. For other comments, please contact our Customer Care Department within the U.S. at 877-762-2974, outside the U.S. at 317-572-3993, or fax 317-572-4002.

Some of the people who helped bring this book to market include the following:

Acquisitions, Editorial, and Media Development

Project Editor: Kelly Ewing

Acquisitions Editor: Michael Lewis

Assistant Editor: Erin Calligan Mooney

Editorial Program Coordinator: Joe Niesen

General Reviewer: Dr. Heather P. Tarleton

Senior Editorial Manager: Jennifer Ehrlich

Editorial Supervisor and Reprint Editor: Carmen Krikorian

Editorial Assistant: Jennette ElNaggar

Art Coordinator: Alicia B. South

Illustrator: Kathryn Born

Cover Photos: © Jochen Tack/Alamy

Cartoons: Rich Tennant (www.the5thwave.com)

Composition Services

Project Coordinator: Patrick Redmond

Layout and Graphics: Ashley Chamberlain, Joyce Haughey, Christine Williams

Publishing and Editorial for Consumer Dummies

Diane Graves Steele, Vice President and Publisher, Consumer Dummies

Kristin Ferguson-Wagstaffe, Product Development Director, Consumer Dummies

Ensley Eikenburg, Associate Publisher, Travel

Kelly Regan, Editorial Director, Travel

Publishing for Technology Dummies

Andy Cummings, Vice President and Publisher, Dummies Technology/General User

Composition Services

Debbie Stailey, Director of Composition Services

Introduction

In some ways, stem cell science represents a whole new world for medicine. Although scientists still have much more to discover, we know more than ever before about how the human body works, how cells and tissues and organs work together, and what goes wrong in disease. Forty years after Neil Armstrong first stepped on the moon, we’re on the brink of another giant leap for mankind — only this time the new frontier is under a microscope instead of beyond the clouds.

Like most frontiers, stem cell territory is fraught with unfamiliar sights, unanticipated perils, wrong turns, dead ends, and misadventures of all kinds. In an interview with TIME magazine, Owen Witte, director of UCLA’s Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Medicine, said, “Biology is more complicated than splitting the atom” because stem cell researchers have to figure out how to create the outcomes they’re seeking and how to measure the results at the same time.

Then there are the ethical considerations of stem cell research. For centuries, scientists have been portrayed in fiction and fable as doing things because they can do them and ignoring the question of whether they should do them — a perception unfortunately cemented by a few highly publicized real-life scandals. The New York Times reported in 2007 that James Thomson, whose team first isolated human embryonic stem cells, thinks the controversial aspects of the research may have kept talented scientists away from the stem cell field. In real life, most scientists and physicians are highly ethical people who would never consider creating a modern-day Frankenstein or resurrecting a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Most of these professionals shun the notoriety that comes with controversy, and few 21st-century scientific endeavors are more controversial than stem cell research.

Finally, there’s just a lot of confusion about what scientists have done, what they’re trying to do, and what they think they might be able to do in the future. Unfortunately, those critical distinctions aren’t always clear in media reports. During the Civil War, a Syracuse, New York, newspaper ran a column of battlefield gossip under the headline, “Important, if true.” In our opinion, the media should revive that disclaimer when it comes to stem cell reports because sometimes it’s hard to determine what’s true, what’s sort of true, what’s true but irrelevant, and what’s more or less wishful thinking.

About This Book

We’ve written this book with three main objectives. First, we want to present the best available information on what stem cell research is and where it may lead in straightforward, easy-to-understand language. Throughout the text, we strive to leave the technical jargon to the scientific journals and translate the information into everyday English.

Second, we aim to dispel the persistent myths and misconceptions about stem cell research. (We even devote a chapter in the Part of Tens to common myths.) Many of these misconceptions are driven by the nature of mainstream media reporting; newspapers and even Web sites often don’t have the space to devote to truly complete explanations of what scientists are doing. And sometimes — not always, but sometimes — reporters don’t fully understand the story they’re covering, so factual errors enter the public debate as truth.

Finally, we want to lay out as fairly and objectively as possible the many perspectives and points of view about the morality and ethics of stem cell research. Naturally, we’re generally in favor of stem cell research (we don’t support some practices), but we recognize that opponents have many valid concerns and questions about the field and its implications for a conscientious society. We don’t attempt to persuade you toward one opinion or another; we simply provide the arguments and counterarguments so that you can decide for yourself.

Conventions Used in This Book

For the sake of consistency and readability, we use the following conventions throughout the text:

Technical terms appear in italics, with a plain-English definition or explanation nearby.

Keywords in bulleted lists and the action part of numbered steps are in bold.

Web addresses are in monofont. (When this book was printed, some Web addresses may have been split into two lines of text. If that happened, rest assured that we haven’t inserted any extra characters (such as hyphens) to indicate the break. So, when using one of these Web addresses, just type exactly what you see in this book as though the line break doesn’t exist.)

Many people use the words embryo and fetus interchangeably, or at least inconsistently, and, in fact, various dictionaries offer different definitions of embryo and fetus. For our purposes throughout this book, we generally use embryo to refer to stages of development from zygote up to blastocyst (see Chapter 4) — that is, stages that haven’t yet implanted in a woman’s uterus. We use fetus to refer to stages after implantation and generally after 8 weeks of development.

We hedge on quite a few things, with phrases like “as far as we know” and “apparently can.” We include these qualifiers because, contrary to popular belief, science isn’t a collection of hard and fast facts; it’s a collection of experiments, observations, and interpretations. We present the most accurate and up-to-date information available, but what’s accurate today may not be accurate a year from now as scientists make more discoveries and as interpretations of observations evolve.

What You’re Not to Read

Like all For Dummies books, this one is organized so that you can find the information that matters to you and ignore the stuff you don’t care about. You don’t have to read the chapters in any particular order; each chapter contains the information you need for that chapter’s topic, and we provide cross-references if you want to read more about a specific subject. You don’t even have to read the entire book (but we’ll be delighted if you do).

Occasionally, you’ll see sidebars — shaded boxes of text that go into detail on a particular topic. You don’t have to read them if you’re not interested; skipping them won’t hamper you in understanding the rest of the text.

You also can skip any information next to the Technical Stuff icon. We explain most technical information in simple language and reserve the Technical Stuff icon for details that are interesting but not crucial to understanding the topic.

Foolish Assumptions

In researching and writing this book, we’ve made some assumptions about you, the reader. We assume that you

Have a health condition (or a loved one with a health condition) for which stem cell research may produce effective treatments.

Want to be able to separate the realistic possibilities stem cell research is opening up from overblown hype.

Want straightforward information to help you understand various viewpoints in the debate over stem cell science.

Are interested in understanding stem cell science, but don’t want to pursue a Ph.D. in the field.

Want a convenient, comprehensive, and easy-to-understand resource that covers all this information without making you feel like a dummy.

How This Book Is Organized

For Dummies books are known for breaking a topic down into broad subtopics so that you can easily find the information you want without having to slog through a lot of information you’re not interested in. For the highly complex topic of stem cells, we split the information into the following parts.

Part I: Brushing Up on Biology

In this part, we give you an overview of stem cell science, as well as a primer on the structures and functions of human cells and tissues. We provide the basic information you need to understand how and why stem cell researchers do what they do in the lab and explain the apparently unique properties of different kinds of stem cells and why they inspire so much hope for treating or curing so many devastating illnesses.

Because the field has garnered so many headlines in recent years, many people think stem cell research is brand new. But today’s research is built upon decades — even centuries — of investigation into and discoveries about how living organisms work. So we also provide a brief recap of the history of stem cell science and show you how the research arrived at its current point.

Part II: Delving into Stem Cell Science

One of the things that makes the stem cell debate confusing is that there are so many different kinds of stem cells. Even the names of different stem cell types can be misleading: “Adult” stem cells, for example, don’t always come from grownups, and “cloning” in this context usually refers to methods for making specific kinds of stem cells rather than creating a carbon copy of a human being.

In this part, we break down all the different types of stem cells and explain what they are, where they come from, and what scientists think each cell type can do. These chapters explore embryonic stem cells, adult stem cells, and alternative methods for creating and directing stem cells. We also cover the advantages and disadvantages of combining cells from different sources — different breeds and different species — and the scientific and ethical implications of such “cell swapping.”

Part III: Discovering How Stem Cells Can Affect the Future

The potential for today’s stem cell research is huge. Researchers around the globe are aggressively pursuing lines of inquiry that may lead to revolutionary therapies for such devastating human ailments as cancer, Lou Gehrig’s and Parkinson’s diseases, diabetes, and heart disease.

The chapters in this part look at the stem cell research for these and other diseases. We tell you what scientists have discovered so far and what they think their discoveries mean for the future. We show you how and why stem cells hold such exciting possibilities for developing effective treatments and explain the challenges researchers have to overcome before patients can actually begin to receive stem cell-based treatments.

Part IV: Putting Stem Cells to Use Today

Not all stem cell therapies are products of the distant future. Doctors routinely use some stem cell therapies to treat leukemia and severe burns, and researchers are testing methods for treating other cancers, diabetes, heart disease, and multiple sclerosis. In 2009, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first clinical trial for an embryonic stem cell-based therapy for people with spinal cord injuries.

Meanwhile, interest in banking stem cells (from a variety of sources) has exploded. We tell you how stem cell banking works and what you need to know if you’re considering preserving your own (or a loved one’s) stem cells.

Part V: Understanding the Debate: Ethics, Laws, and Money

Stem cell research raises a complex series of moral, ethical, and philosophical questions that politicians, religious leaders, and the general public have been debating for years. In this part, we cover the various viewpoints and arguments — pro and con — on different kinds of stem cell research and explain where there seems to be common ground and where the deep divisions are.

We also provide a summary of current laws and policies in the United States and abroad, as well as the events and forces that led to their enactment. And we explain how stem cell research gets funded and the issue of who owns the rights to things like genes and specific stem cell lines.

Part VI: The Part of Tens

The Part of Tens is one of the most popular features of For Dummies books because it condenses lots of information into small, easily digested nuggets. In this part, we explore popular myths and misconceptions about stem cells and ten challenges to using stem cells in routine medical therapies. We also look at ten exciting possibilities for the future of stem cells.

Finally, we give you ten essential things you need to do before you seek stem cell treatment for yourself or a loved one.

Icons Used in This Book

Throughout the text, you see icons that alert you to certain types of information. Here’s a glossary of those icons and what they mean:

tip.eps We use this icon to indicate procedures you should follow if you’re looking for stem cell-based treatments or considering banking stem cells.

remember.eps This icon highlights important information you should keep in mind about stem cell research, especially if you haven’t yet formed an opinion on the merits, morality, or ethics of the science.

warning_bomb.eps This little bomb alerts you to information that may have been misreported or misconstrued in the media, as well as potential dangers that often are played down or overlooked in news reports.

technicalstuff.eps With a topic like stem cell research, you might expect every paragraph to be marked with this icon; after all, it’s a pretty technical subject. But our job is to make the topic easy to understand, so you’ll only find this icon next to a few details that are more technical than the rest of the text.

CoolScience.eps Even in the gee-whiz-evoking field of stem cell research, some things stand out as particularly nifty. We use this icon when we tell you about funky machines, awe-inspiring biological processes, and other things that make us say, “How cool!”

mythbuster.eps Myths and misconceptions about stem cells and the people who study them are varied and plentiful. This icon identifies information that may not agree with what you’ve heard or that provides important clarification of potentially vague points.

Where to Go from Here

The beauty of For Dummies books is that, unlike textbooks, you don’t have to read earlier chapters to understand the information in later chapters. Where you start reading about stem cells is entirely up to you.

If you want to understand why stem cell research is so controversial, turn to Chapter 15 for a discussion of moral and ethical questions surrounding the science. If you’re curious about where embryonic stem cells come from and what they can do, start with Chapter 4. If you’re interested in receiving stem cell-based therapy for yourself or a loved one, go to Chapter 21 to find out what you need to know before you sign up. And if you’re thinking of banking stem cells for future use, check out Chapter 14 to understand the process and the pros and cons.

Part I

Brushing Up on Biology

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In this part . . .

Stem cell research has a long history, but it has come under intense public scrutiny only in the past decade or so. Research involving human embryonic stem cells is at the root of most of the controversy surrounding stem cell science. (Research on fetal tissue and fetal stem cells also is controversial in some circles.) In this part, we provide an overview of stem cell research, as well as a primer on cells and tissues and how they work in the human body.

We also explore the history of stem cell science, revealing what the ancients knew about regenerating body parts in humans and other animals and what scientists have discovered about how cells operate in living organisms. We show you how understanding DNA and other cellular mechanisms have helped researchers combat diseases like leukemia and how today’s scientists are building on that body of knowledge to tackle other health issues.