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Volume 4, Pages 662-715
Review Article

Embryos, Clones, and Stem Cells: A Scientific Primer

Department of Biological Sciences, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556, USA

Received 17 May 2004; Revised 4 August 2004; Accepted 4 August 2004

Copyright © 2004 Kenyon S. Tweedell.


This article is intended to give the nonspecialist an insight into the nuances of “clones”, cloning, and stem cells. It distinguishes embryonic and adult stem cells, their normal function in the organism, their origin, and how they are recovered to produce stem cell lines in culture. As background, the fundamental processes of embryo development are reviewed and defined, since the manipulation of stem cell lines into desired specialized cells employs many of the same events. Stem cells are defined and characterized and shown how they function in the intact organism during early development and later during cell regeneration in the adult. The complexity of stem cell recovery and their manipulation into specific cells and tissue is illustrated by reviewing current experimentation on both embryonic and adult stem cells in animals and limited research on human stem cell lines. The current and projected use of stem cells for human diseases and repair, along with the expanding methodology for the recovery of human embryonic stem cells, is described. An assessment on the use of human embryonic stem cells is considered from ethical, legal, religious, and political viewpoints.