*New form of tissue engineering raises ethical questions
Using a technique that avoids the use of high-dose
chemotherapy and radiation in preparation for a stem cell
transplant, physicians at the University of Illinois Hospital &
Health Sciences System, United States, have documented the
first cure of an adult patient with congenital
dyserythropoietic anemia. CDA is a rare blood disorder in
which the body does not produce enough red blood cells,
causing progressive organ damage and early death.
The transplant technique is unique, because it allows a
donor’s cells to gradually take over a patient’s bone marrow
without using toxic agents to eliminate a patient’s cells
prior to the transplant.
This case report is published in a letter to the editor in the
journal Bone Marrow Transplantation.
Dr. Damiano Rondelli, the Michael Reese Professor of
Haematology at the University of Illinois at Chicago, says
the protocol can be used even in patients with a long
history of disease and some organ damage because of the
minimal use of chemotherapy.
“For many adult patients with a blood disorder, treatment
options have been limited because they are often not sick
enough to qualify for a risky procedure, or they are too sick
to tolerate the toxic drugs used alongside a standard
transplant,” said Rondelli, who is also division chief of
hematology and oncology and director of the stem cell
transplant program at UI Health.
“This procedure gives some adults the option of a stem cell
transplant which was not previously available.”
Also, as biological research races forward, ethical
quandaries are piling up. In a report published Tuesday in
the journal eLife, researchers at Harvard Medical School,
United States, said it was time to ponder a startling new
prospect: synthetic embryos.
In recent years, scientists have moved beyond in vitro
fertilization. They are starting to assemble stem cells that
can organize themselves into embryolike structures.
Soon, experts predict, they will learn how to engineer these
cells into new kinds of tissues and organs.

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