Stem cell epistemological issues. Chapter in Charbord P and Durand C (eds) Stem cell biology and regenerative medicine.

River Publishers (2015)
  Copy   BIBTEX


This chapter brings a philosophical perspective to the concept of stem cell. Three general questions both clarify the concept of stem cell and emphasize its ambiguities: (1) How should we define stem cells? (2) What makes them different from non-stem cells? (3) What is their ontology? (i.e. what kind of property is “stemness”?) Following this last question, the Chapter distinguishes four conceptions of stem cells and highlights their respective consequences for the cancer stem cell theory. Determining what kind of property stemness is, in what context, is an urgent question, at least for therapeutic strategies against cancers. I hope that this chapter also illustrates how philosophy can be useful to biology. The Chapter starts by clarifying the notions of self-renewal and differentiation. This leads to the question “can we (and if so, how) distinguish stem cells from non-stem cells through these two properties?”. From that will follow an interrogation on whether stem cells belong to a natural kind. On this issue, biologists and philosophers have framed the following alternative: either the concept of stem cell refers to entities (the cells that belong to the stem cell natural kind) or it refers to a transient and reversible cell state. I will argue that four conceptions of stemness should be distinguished rather than two. Finally, I will develop the case of the cancer stem cell (CSC) theory in order to show why it is crucial to answer the ontological question: some therapies might or might not be efficient depending on what stemness is.



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 77,805

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Reprogramming and Stemness.Lucie Laplane - 2015 - Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 58 (2):229-246.
The Stem Cell Uncertainty Principle.Melinda Bonnie Fagan - 2013 - Philosophy of Science 80 (5):945-957.
Crucial stem cell experiments? Stem cells, uncertainty, and single-cell experiments.Melinda Fagan - 2015 - Theoria: Revista de Teoría, Historia y Fundamentos de la Ciencia 30 (2):183.
Social experiments in stem cell biology.Melinda B. Fagan - 2011 - Perspectives on Science 19 (3):235-262.
Crucial Stem Cell Experiments? Stem Cells, Uncertainty, and Single-Cell Experiments.Melinda Bonnie Fagan - 2015 - Theoria: Revista de Teoría, Historia y Fundamentos de la Ciencia 30 (2):183-205.
Stem Cells Therapy and Research. Benefits and Ethical Challences.Nicolae Ovidiu Grad, Ionel Ciprian Pop & Ion Aurel Mironiuc - 2012 - Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies 11 (32):190-205.
Stem cell research: An ethical evaluation of policy options.Nikolaus Knoepffler - 2004 - Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 14 (1):55-74.
Moral complicity in induced pluripotent stem cell research.Mark T. Brown - 2009 - Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 19 (1):pp. 1-22.


Added to PP

16 (#676,148)

6 months
2 (#324,005)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Lucie Laplane
CNRS, Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne

Citations of this work

Reprogramming and Stemness.Lucie Laplane - 2015 - Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 58 (2):229-246.

Add more citations

References found in this work

No references found.

Add more references