Authored by Geoff Vaughan in Biology
Published on 01-30-2009
The topic of stem cell research is widely debated. For many, embryonic stem cell research offers hope of finding cures for diseases and illnesses. For others, this form of stem cell research is not a hope to extend life, but it is an end to a human life.
Stem cells come from three main sources: embryonic cells, umbilical cord cells, and adult cells. Out of these three cells, the best form with the least amount of controversy is the adult type. In order to get these cells, doctors extract cells from the bone marrow of the patient?s body. This procedure is not without pain—it causes some destruction to bone marrow. The advantage is that the DNA is an exact match to the patient’s, and is used to replace other dead or damaged cells in the body. Adult cells are also plentiful.
The second type of stem cells is extracted from a pregnant woman. The umbilical cord provides the greatest source of stem cells. Donation is highly encouraged, and the storage process is similar to storing donated blood. The infant and parents are the best ones to receive these stem cells because of the close genetic match, but other people with similar blood types can also benefit.
The most controversy comes from embryonic cell use. These cells are extracted from the embryo before these cells start to differentiate. The embryo at this state is known as a “blastocyst.” Most of the 100 cells in the “blastocyst” are stem cells. These can be grown and kept alive in cultures indefinitely, and will replicate and double about every three days in number. In order to get these cells, the embryo must be destroyed. Many people consider this as murdering an unborn infant.
Researchers and scientists believe that embryonic stem cells hold the future cures for a variety of medical illnesses and diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Diabetes. The list of possible cures that can be found through this research is very lengthy. Many believe that stem cell research on embryonic cells is necessary to understand both human development and how diseases begin and can best be treated. The goal of this research is to eventually put an end to human suffering.
In addition to considering this type of research to be murder, many people see it as a con that no positive developments to date have come from this research. In fact, many studies have shown negative outcomes. Several medical studies with embryonic stem cells have led to brain tumors in rats and mice. These studies have also linked embryonic stem cells to causing chromosomal anomalies that make cancer cells. Researchers and scientists state that it will take years of research before cures can be found.
Other critics of embryonic stem cell research detail that more funding and time should be devoted into umbilical cord cell and adult cell research. In regards to funding, many are against the government funding any of these studies, while others are for using federal taxes to fund research. Most states have funded this research through their large universities. Most studies take time, and despite the controversy, everyone hopes to find cures for human ailments.