Pro Stem Cell Research
There are a few opposing arguments to whether or not stem cells research should be legal. Some say that it is not moral, that the embryos needed to extract stem cells are as important as an adult human life. Stem cells are amazing in the fact that they have the potential to cure many life threatening diseases including Leukemia, Diabetes, and Parkinson’s. There are other negative impacts as well, such as environmental and political aspects, but the good outweighs the bad in how many lives could be saved.
Stem cells are cells that can become any of the two hundred and twenty different cell types present in the human body. They are and have been called “miracle cells” by many researchers just for this reason. They have no specific job to do in the human body, so stem cells are able to be manipulated into any type of cell. These cells can then be injected into a diseased person’s body for treatment, and possibly a cure. Scientist Don Wolf of Oregon National Primate Center is working to treat Diabetes with stem cells, “You can rescue the Diabetic by injecting them with (new pancreatic) cells periodically as needed - similar to a flu shot”.
Most who are oppositional to stem cell research oppose it for moral reasons. The controversy surrounding stem cell research is similar to the controversy of abortion, as in whether or not the process of extracting stem cells, which requires destroying the embryo, is taking a human life or not. In 2001 Bush successively passed a bill banning federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.
In the research’s defense, stem cells can be used to cure, or at least treat, diseases including Leukemia and Parkinson’s disease. Researchers have developed other ways to extract stem cells without having to harm the embryo. One such way is similar to cloning an embryo. The only difference would be that the nucleus from the donor cell, that has its chromosomal DNA and is genetically altered, would be placed into a recipient egg without a nucleus. The genetic alteration would prevent the resulting egg from growing into an embryo, but it would live long enough so that stem cells could be collected. This technique is called altered nuclear transfer, or ANT.
There is also another technique which entails harvesting still living stem cells from embryos declared clinically dead. This technique would use embryos that are frozen and produced in vitro fertilization. Both of these techniques work theoretically, but are still at the experimental stage. (America Press, 2004).
Stem cells can also be used to test new drugs. For example, new medications could be tested for safety on differentiated cells generated from the stem cell. Other types of cells are used in this way already. Cancer cells, for one, are used to test potential anti-tumor drugs. The availability of stem cells would allow drug testing in a wider range of cell types. However, to screen drugs effectively, the conditions must be identical when comparing different drugs. Therefore, scientists will have to be able to precisely control the differentiation of stem cells into the specific cell type on which drugs will be tested. Current knowledge of the signals controlling differentiation falls short of being able to mimic these conditions precisely to generate pure populations of differentiated cells for each drug being tested.
Perhaps the most important potential application of human stem cells is the generation of cells and tissues that could be used for cell-based therapies. Today, donated organs and tissues are often used to replace ailing or destroyed tissue, but the need for transplantable tissues and organs far outweighs the available supply. Stem cells, directed to differentiate into specific cell types, offer the possibility of a renewable source of replacement cells and tissues to treat diseases including Alzheimer's diseases, spinal cord injury, stroke, burns, heart disease, Diabetes, Osteoarthritis, and Rheumatoid Arthritis. For example, it may become possible to generate healthy heart muscle cells in the laboratory and then transplant those cells into patients with chronic heart disease. Preliminary research in mice and other animals indicates that bone marrow stromal cells, transplanted into a damaged heart, can have beneficial effects. Whether these cells can generate heart muscle cells or stimulate the growth of new blood vessels that repopulate the heart tissue, or help via some other mechanism is actively under investigation.
Most of the opposition towards stem cells comes from ethicists of the Christian and Catholic faith. Most religious people appear to think that the American public is callous and are wishing for a “miracle cure”. They also believe that embryos qualify as human life. In vitro fertilization is also considered extremely immoral, and a colossal waste. One may even be able to hear of cases where someone with a crippling and life threatening disease will refuse stem cell treatment even if it is their only option. It is incredible to find that even when one looks at the extreme benefits of stem cell research they conclude that an embryo, a simple ball of cells, is more valuable than a person who has lived and felt what life has to offer.
Many also believe that insufficient attention has been given to explore the potential of adult stem cells, which have already been used to successfully cure many diseases. They also argue that too little attention has been paid to the potential of umbilical cord blood for stem cell research. They also point out that no cures have yet been produced by embryonic stem cell therapy. At every step of the embryonic stem cell therapy process, decisions are made by scientists, researchers, medical professionals and the women who donate their eggs. They are decisions that are fraught with serious ethical and moral implications. Those against embryonic stem cell research argue that funding should be used to greatly expand adult stem research, to circumvent the many moral issues involving the use of human embryos.
Ultimately, one has to put themselves in the position of a patient or a relative of a patient who is in an amazing amount of pain and could die unless stem cells are used. If you were in that situation would you not value your own life or the life of a loved one above a ball of cells?
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