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Ethics in Biology, Engineering and Medicine: An International Journal
Converging Ideological Currents in the Adult Stem Cell Marketing Phenomenon
RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology, 2-2-3 Minatojima-minamimachi, Chuo-ku, Kobe 650-0047, Japan
Somatic (adult) stem cells are the focus of intensive research and commercial development. Opponents of research into human embryonic stem cells frequently portray adult stem cells as "ethical" alternatives that are safe and beneficial in the treatment of dozens of diseases. Such claims, which have been widely promulgated by conservative religious groups in the United States and other countries, have been coopted and embellished by numerous businesses that market putative "adult stem cell treatments" on a direct-to-consumer and for-profit basis. Regulatory efforts to rein in the unsupported therapeutic claims made by such companies have subsequently attracted criticism from libertarian and pro-business organizations, which additionally serves as a populist plank in a more general platform of opposition to government authority over economic and health care activities. The convergence of moral claims made by socially conservative religious groups and the laissez-faire instincts of free-market proponents have driven lobbying for the deregulation of stem cell biologics by companies and industry-backed organizations, which also have sought to cultivate public dissatisfaction; this may incidentally drive additional demand. This review outlines the history of how these ideologies have influenced the direct-to-consumer marketing of stem cell interventions.
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