Stem Cell Research
Stem cells are a large focus of study in today’s biomedical world. Stem cell research offers the hope of transplants being done without the sacrifice of another person losing an organ. There are many different pros and cons when it comes to discussing the use of stem cells.
In order to develop an opinion of whether or not stem cells should be used, one must first understand what they are and how they are used. “Stem cells have the remarkable potential to develop into many different cells types in the body. Serving as a sort of repair system for the body, they can theoretically divide without limit to replenish other cells as long as the person or animal is still alive. When a stem cell divides, each new cell has the potential to either remain a stem cell or become another type of cell with a more specialized function, such as a muscle cell, a red blood cell or a brain cell,” (National Institute of Health, 2004).
In the face of prevention and treatment of human diseases, devastating illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s continue to deprive people of health. With the research of stem cells, scientist can now carry out experiments aimed at determining what causes these diseases. Although it is impossible to predict the outcomes, scientist and the public will gain new knowledge to help prevent these diseases. (National Institute of Health, 2004).
There are primarily two different types of stem cells that scientist work with, embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells. Embryonic and adult stem cells each have many advantages and disadvantages regarding their potential use. Adult and embryonic stem cells differ in the number and type of cells that they can become. (Antkowiak, 2001).
“Embryonic stem cells are cells from the embryo that have the potential to become a wide variety of specialized cell types,” (National Institute of Health, 2004). Embryonic stem cells have certain advantages over adult stem cells. Embryonic stem cells are easier to obtain because most of them come from in vitro fertilization. Embryonic stem cells are more flexible, they “appear to have the potential to make any cell. They are also immortal; one embryonic stem cell line can potentially provide an endless supply of cells with defined characteristics,” (Velazquez, n.d.).
Embryonic stem cells also have many disadvantages. Embryonic stem cells can mean destruction of human life. They are usually come from a random donor and are more likely to be rejected by someone that receives them through a transplant. Most embryonic stem cells are obtained from embryos that have been made in a lab through in vitro fertilization and they are used for test purposes only. This is one of the most argued facts by protestor’s against stem cell research (Marshall, 1998). Many people believe that it is murder because they are killing a human life. Embryonic stem cells are also capable of forming tumors or promoting tumor formation because they are not put back into their original donor’s body. (Velazquez, n.d.).
“Adult stem cells are stem cells found in adults and they typically generate the cell types in which they are found,” (National Institute of Health, 2004). Adult stem cells have a stronger advantage than embryonic stem cells. Adult stem cells usually come from umbilical cords, placentas amniotic fluids, bone marrow, liver and other various tissues and organs. Bone marrow and umbilical cord cells have recently been isolated which can allow them to be as flexible as the embryonic type. These stem cells are of a higher quality and are more likely to take because the “recipient who receives the products of their own stem cells will not experience immune rejection,” (Velazquez, n.d.). Another fact that most protestors argue is that, adult stem cells do not cause any harm to the donor.
Adult stem cells also have many disadvantages. Limited quantity is a huge disadvantage because sometimes it can be difficult to obtain these stem cells in large numbers. This is an important distinction between embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells because large numbers of cells are needed for stem cell replacement therapies. Adult stem cells may not live as long as embryonic stem cells if grown in culture. Adult stem cells are also not as flexible; it may be more difficult to reprogram them to form other tissue types. (Velazquez, n.d.).
Adult stem cells are more preferable than embryonic stem cells for multiple reasons. “Adult stem cells are a natural solution. They naturally exist in our bodies, and they provide a natural repair mechanism for the many tissues in our bodies,
while embryonic stem cells derive from the early embryo and they can cause tumors and immune system reactions. Most importantly, adult stem cells have already been successfully used in human therapies. No therapies in humans have ever been successfully carried out using embryonic stem cells,” (Velazquez, n.d.).
Embryonic stem cell research has been known to put a big dent in government funding. However, with the use of embryonic stem cell research we would be able to find cures too many different types of diseases. Some feel that it is very important that this research should be funded so that we will have the chance to change the lives of many people and benefit everyone in the long run. (Mangus, 2004).
Antkowiak, L. (2001). Understanding Stem Cell Research. Retrieved January 16, 2005, from http://www.NRLC.org
Mangus, D. (2004). Stem cell research should be more than a promise. Retrieved January 17, 2005 from Ebsco host research center.
Marshall, E. (1998). Use of Stem Cells Still Legally Murky. Retrieved January 20, 2005, from Ebsco host research center.
National Institute of Health. (2004, June). Stem Cell Basics. Retrieved January 19, 2005 from http://stemcells.nih.gov/info/basics/
Velazquez, L. (2004). The Center for Holistic Life Extension. Retrieved January 18, 2005, from http://extendlife.com/stemcells/html