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Recently, scientists have announced the discovery of how to convert human skin cells into stem cells. Gina Kolata, Man Who Helped Start Stem Cell War May End It, N.Y. TIMES, Nov. 22, 2007, at A1. Stem cells are cells with the nascent ability to grow into fully formed organisms. Certain types of human stem cells have the potential to grow into individual human beings, which has resulted in a great deal of controversy surrounding stem cell research. Many individuals, as well as certain organizations, particularly religious organizations, see human stem cell research as a fundamental challenge to human dignity and the sanctity of life. This debate has affected patent law in Europe, to the extent that inventions based on certain kinds of research may be excluded from patentability. However, new methods of stem cell research, such as the recent conversion of skin cells into stem cells, may escape the ethical barriers that currently exist in European patent law. In addition to their potential ability to sidestep the ethical barriers to patenting stem cells, these new research approaches can open new scope for researchers to perform stem cell research in the United States.


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