Stem Cell Research
Essay Preview: Stem Cell Research
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The headlines of the life saving therapies of the future all start in a laboratory. A stem cell is a special kind of cell that has a unique ability to renew itself and to give rise to specialized cell types. Although most cells of the body, such as skin cells or heart cells, are committed to handle a specific function, a stem cell is uncommitted and stays uncommitted, until it gets a signal to turn into a specialized cell. Their proliferative
capacity combined with the ability to become specialized makes stem cells unique. Researchers have looked for years for ways to use stem cells to replace tissues and cells that are damaged or diseased. Recently, stem cells have received much attention especially with the Presidential Campaigning that is going on.
Embryonic Stem Cell Research may help cure many diseases and disabilities the world faces today. But due to the ending of unborn humans, scientists should look more towards the adult stem cells or other ways of extracting cells that have less ethical and moral debates. Through success and failures there has been a great deal of knowledge learned from both. In exploring the world of stem cell research, all sides of this controversial issue will be seen. Will anyoneÐ²Ð‚™s beliefs be changed when it is finished? Will there be a clear answer? Which is right, which is wrong? Is it for the best or has science and technology gone too far? These are questions that will be looked at as this journey unfolds.
Stem cells are cells that can turn into whatever type of cell is needed. These cells are found in bone marrow, fetuses, embryos and blood from and umbilical cord. A human embryo starts off as a bunch of cells known as Ð²Ð‚ÑšblastocystÐ²Ð‚Ñœ. These blastocysts divide and eventually turn into organs and tissues. Embryonic cells can be grown in a laboratory from the blastocyst and be made to grow into cells for livers, blood, and muscles, even nerves.
Adult stem cells are found in many places like skin, bone marrow, liver and muscles. In adults the stem cells stay dormant or inactive until they are needed. When a stem cell becomes damaged or dies then one from the body takes over and replaces the damaged or dead one. (Stem Cells: Scientific Progress and Future Research Directions. Department of Health and Human Services. June 2001.)
Human adult stem cells are self-renewing. The master cells are called Human Mesenchymal or multipotent marrow stromal cells (hMSCs). (Verrillo, M. Society of Nuclear Medicine, Medical News Today, Dec.9, 2007) They can change into bone, fat tissue and cartilage. The cells have exceptional potential in providing treatments for cancer, heart disease, and brain disorders. The hMSCs also reduce the need for embryonic stem cells.
Originally, it was believed only two different types of stem cells existed. Embryonic Stem Cells known as pluripotent have the potential of developing into any of the 220 cell types located within the human body. This type can only be extracted from human embryos. Once stem cells are extracted the embryo cannot be born. Some pro-life supporters consider this murder. Adult stem cells can be extracted from a baby, child, adolescent or adult without killing. Even though adult stem cell research dates back to the 1960 whereas embryonic cells were not isolated until 1988, scientists have found the adult cells are not as flexible and their use is limited. (NIH publishes final guidelines for stem cell research, National Institutes of Health, 2000-AUG-23)
In 2005, researchers, at the University of Pittsburgh, discovered a third type of
stem cell. Theses cells can now be harvested from amniotic fluid with little risk to the mother or baby, the cells can also be taken from the placenta, which is normally thrown away. These cells are called Ð²Ð‚Ñšamniotic epithelial cellsÐ²Ð‚Ñœ. Each placenta has approximately 300 million epithelial cells and those can be stretched to be between 10 and 60 billion cells. (Discarded placentas deliver researchers promising cells they report are much like embryonic stem cells, Hype and Hope, 2005-AUG-05)
A study released in January of 2007 (N. C. Wake Forest University School of Medicine and Harvard University) shows that this newly discovered type of stem cell seems to have the best features of embryonic and adult stem cells. The study further showed that not only will human embryos not be destroyed, but also they are easier to get and can develop into a wide range of cell types. (Amniotic stem cell discovery backed up by new study, LifeSiteNews.com, 2007-JAN-08)
Keeping all this in mind and with no preaching of religion or theology, the subject of if it is moral and ethical to conduct stem cell research comes down to each personÐ²Ð‚™s view on when an embryo is considered a human being and possesses worth and dignity. The pro-life movement believes this happens at or shortly after conception. So to remove stem cells causing the embryo to die would be murder, regardless of the potential to heal the sick and possibly dying. The pro-choice movement believes that being considered a live human being happens much later or at the time the brain of the fetus is developed. Since extracting embryonic stem cells happens at 5 to 10 days of age when there is no feeling, nerves or brain function, it is not murder and is acceptable to have the potential to cure diseases and extend life. (Anon, Human Embryo research-fetal experimentation 1997-DEC-15.)
Some people fall back on religion and theology as a way to show conviction, and motivation for what is thought to be correct and moral. However, religion and theology should not be relied on as an authority of whether or not a human embryo is a human being. If all are to be treated equal no matter the race, sex, religion, and origin then why not age, size, stage of development or how much dependency.
All adult humans went through the stages of natural development, embryo, infant, child, adolescent, adult hood. From the very moment of an embryo is created the stages are already set. The blastocysts will differentiate and become bones, organs, blood and skin.
Some pro-life supporters are so busy targeting stem cell research and accusing them of murder, they In-vetro Fertilization Clinics are getting by unscathed. The IVF clinics are making about 24 embryos and implanting 4 or 5 then throw the rest out. Some embryos go down the drain, some in the trash, others a left out in the air. Few are kept to freeze or donate. Even freezing embryos does not guarantee survival. Embryos will sometimes die during the freezing or process.
How IVF labs handle embryos or zygotes that are not implanted in a womans womb and which are not deep-frozen for potential future use:
With donor consent