FRAME believes that stem cells are potentially invaluable alternatives to conducting some of the most distressing experiments in sentient animals.
Stem cell research is still in its infancy but could result in more sensitive and relevant tests that might replace animal tests that cause foetal deformities and death over several generations.
FRAME supports the work of the UK tissue bank in promoting collection and use of human cells and tissues of all kinds.
Stem cells are cells that retain the ability to divide and differentiate into different types of body cells when they are exposed to specific chemical signals. There are different kinds:
Totipotent stem cells can differentiate into any type of body cell. (eg the fertilised egg and the very early embryo cells.)
Pluripotent stem cells are derived from totipotent stem cells. They have potential to replace damaged or missing tissues such as in treating burn victims.
Multipotent stem cells are derived from pluripotent stem cells. They are more specialised and can differentiate into fewer types of cells. (eg the haematopoietic stem cells found in bone marrow can only differentiate into different types of blood cell.)
Stem cells are being used as alternatives to animals for some forms of toxicity testing. For example, studying effects of toxic chemicals on the ability of stem cells to differentiate into nerve and heart cells might determine whether that substance is likely to affect the development of a human foetus or cause neurological problems.
Stem cell research looks at the possibility of programming stem cells in a way that could be used to reverse conditions such as muscular dystrophy, Parkinson’s disease and diabetes. Haematopoietic cells are used to treat forms of leukaemia and to reconstitute the blood cell systems of cancer patients after radiotherapy or chemotherapy.