A bill has been proposed to the Maryland General Assembly, which requested the Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO) and the Stem Cell Research Commission to report to the public on the progress of State-funded stem cell research by holding an annual public symposium, at which each recipient of money from the Stem Cell Research Fund must present research results. (DLSOIS, 2011). There are two types of stem cells: embryonic and adult(IOH, 2011). Embryonic cells, commonly referred to as blastocysts, are removed and placed into a culture dish with a special liquid, stimulating growth (IOH, 2011). Stem cells can be produced through in vitro fertilization or nuclear transfer (Academy of Sciences, 2009). In vitro fertilization allows for the removal of a woman’s eggs, which are then either implanted in the womb or placed in freezers for storage (Academy of Sciences, 2009). In vitro fertilization could be used to produce blastocysts and promote the isolation of stem cells with particular genetic traits, which would be used to study diseases (Academy of Sciences, 2009). Nuclear transfer is the alternative way to produce embryonic stem cells (Academy of Sciences, 2009). Although the process has not be successfully accomplished in human stem cells, this procedure would produce copies or clones of the original adult cell (Academy of Sciences, 2009). Nuclear transfusion would allow scientists to study the maturation of diseases by producing stem cells involving the progression of specific diseases (Academy of Sciences, 2009).
Adult stem cells are found within organs that require continual cell production, like the blood cell or skin cell, and function as a cell replicator (Academy of Sciences, 2009). A single adult stem cell can produce genetically identical cells, which could be distinguished into distinct cell types of the tissue (IOH, 2011). These stem cells have the ability to regenerate or reform tissue after transplanted (IOH, 2011). Using adult stem cells would provide a means to guide available cells into other cell types which have been lost or damaged (IOH, 2011).
Stem cells have enabled suffering patients to obtain modernized therapies, which are less invasive and demoralizing. Our bodies have the ability to replace blood cells lost as a result of hematopoietic stem cells found within the blood and bone marrow (Academy of Sciences, 2009). Hematopoietic stem cells have been used to treat leukemia, sickle cell anemia, and many other disorders where the body cannot naturally replace its blood cells (Academy of Sciences, 2009). In the past, removing stem cells could only be accomplished by completing a bone marrow transplant, which are painful and not always successful (Academy of Sciences, 2009). Scientists have discovered a way to extract hematopoietic stem cells from the blood found in the person’s umbilical cord and placenta, which is less dangerous (Academy of Sciences, 2009). Acute lymphoblastic leukemia treatment has improved among adults because of advances in the supportive care of patients due to the use of allogenic stem cell transplantations and hematopoietic stem cells (Ribera, 2011). The use of hematopoietic progenitors from the umbilical cord has increased (Ribera, 2011). Additionally, allogenic stem cell treatments have been used to reduce the transplant-related mortality while preserving the graf-tversus-leukemia effect (Ribera, 2011). Due to the success of hematopoietic progenitors from the umbilical cord and allogenic stem cell treatments, older adults with acute lymphoblastic leukemia are experiencing a suitable therapeutic treatment (Ribera, 2011).
Burn victims endure the challenge of losing their identity while internally losing the ability to regenerate skin cells (Academy of Sciences, 2009). In order to fix burn victims, doctors implement skin transports, which are possible because stem cells are located just under the top layer of skin (Academy of Sciences, 2009). Before stem cells were readily available, doctors transplanted sections of unharmed skin to cover the burned areas (Academy of Sciences, 2009). This procedure was rather dangerous because if the doctor was unable to find enough undamaged skin, the patient was at risk of death (Academy of Sciences, 2009). Currently, doctors grow sheets of new skin through stem cells found in small pieces of healthy skin (Academy of Sciences, 2009). There has been a scientific breakthrough indicating that other types of stem cells are found in hair follicles and in deeper layers of skin, which could provide patients with a more natural look (Academy of Sciences, 2009).
Our brains are naturally programmed to function with the rest of our body. For example, when someone touches a hot stove, their brain informs their hand that the stove is hot, which causes them the remove their hand in order to prevent burning. Parkinson’s disease is an incurable disease where the brain cells responsible for movement degenerate, which results in uncontrolled movements, tremors, and spasms (Academy of Sciences, 2009). Scientists have found a way to differentiate embryonic stem cells into the type of brain cell that is destroyed in Parkinson’s disease. If these stem cells were to be effectively placed in their brains, control of muscle movement would be reestablished (Academy of Sciences, 2009).
Neurodegenerative diseases derive from the loss of neural cells, which causes the nervous system to dysfunction (Feng & Gao, 2011). Induced pluripotent stem cells and neural stem cells are providing alternative options for fighting neurodegenerative diseases (Feng & Gao, 2011). Induced pluripotent stems cells have the ability to avoid immune reactions and can be produced without the use of human ES cells because patient-specific neuroblasts are used for transplantation, while neural stem cells have shown to improve Alzheimer’s disease (Feng & Gao, 2011). Stem cells are not a cure for neurodegenerative diseases, however, stem cells are helping doctors learn more about neurodegenerative diseases (Feng & Gao, 2011).
There is no cure for cancer. Cancer occurs when abnormal cells uncontrollably grow (Medical Encyclopedia, 2010). In 1997, cancerous stem cells were discovered (Academy of Sciences, 2009). Tumor stem cells have the capability to replicate, but lack the ability that tells the cells to stop dividing (Academy of Sciences, 2009). Cancer is generally treated by means of chemotherapy, which attempts to kill the tumor cells (Academy of Sciences, 2009). If chemotherapy deems unsuccessful, the cancer could viscously return (Academy of Sciences, 2009). In the future, tumor stem cells could target the cancer stem cells and cure cancer (Academy of Sciences, 2009).
Incorporating stem cells in our daily medical endeavors seems unrealistic mainly due to the ethical issues which surround the topic. There has been enmity surrounding human embryonic stem cells because the harvesting process requires the destruction of the human embryo around its fifth day of development, which some consider killing an innocent human being (Siegel, 2009). Some people may argue removing stem cells is unethical because the removal is intentionally kill an innocent human being (Siegel, 2009). These people believe that an embryo is considered a human being when the embryo is five days old, and humans, which include embryos, have the right not to be killed (Siegel, 2009). Also, there is a concern that the research currently performed with human embryonic stem cells could cause more destruction of embryos (Siegel, 2009). If embryonic stem cells were approved for treatment, the demand for this type of therapy would increase, causing more embryonic stem cells to be used (Siegel, 2009). Researchers have explored the possibility of creating a bank of human embryonic stem cells (Siegel, 2009). This could be an issue because it would have to be determined who would have access to these therapies (Siegel, 2009). Additionally, some find the creation of embryos for non-reproductive ends to be controversial (Siegel, 2009). They view each embryo as a possible child, which would develop and mature as well as believe that there is a difference between intending and anticipating harms of an embryo (Siegel, 2009). These ethical issues have driven state and federal action.
Due to the stem cell ethical drama, the NIH released draft guidelines in 1999 that only allowed research on cells obtained from fertility treatments which were leftover and specifically donated with the agreement of the progenitors (Association for the Advancement of Science, 2011). Furthermore, if the fertility clinics were to profit from embryo sales, research would be withheld (Association for the Advancement of Science, 2011). In 2001, President Bush implemented federal funding for human embryo stem cell research only on cells that were already in existence and prevented the federal government from destroying future human embryos (Association for the Advancement of Science, 2011). In 2009, President Obama decided to rescind the Bush policy and executed a plan to federally fund the expansion of the number of human embryonic stem cells (Association for the Advancement of Science, 2011). Later that year, the NIH drafted new guidelines that said they would continue to fund research on adult stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells, but would not fund research on embryos that were intentionally created for this purpose (Association for the Advancement of Science, 2011).
In 2006, chapter 19 created the Maryland Stem Cell Research Fund to promote State-funded stem cell research and cures by means of grants and loans to both private and public entities in Maryland (Ellick, 2011). Chapter 19 also enacted an independent Stem Cell Research Commission under TEDCO (Ellick, 2011). TEDCO and the commission were instructed to submit an annual report to the Governor and the General Assembly on the progress of State-funded stem cell research, distinguishing each fund recipient, the amount of money received, and a description of the type of stem cell research used by the recipient (Ellick, 2011). The Governor intends have a $12.4 million budget in general funds to support grants under the Stem Cell Research Fund, which is around what he spent in fiscal 2010 and fiscal 2011 (Ellick, 2011).
On February 2, 2011, the Maryland General Assembly had its first reading of Senate Bill 731 titled Maryland Stem Cell Research Fund – Annual Report and Related Events. Revisions were made for a second and third reading (DLSOIS, 2011). On March 22, 2011, the third reading took place. The final bill requires the Corporation and the Commission to hold an event where the Corporation and the Commission cannot charge more than a minimal fee for State residents to attend, which enables the Corporation and Commission to adjust for inflation (DLSOIS, 2011). This bill has five requirements (DLSOIS, 2011). First, on or before January 1 of each year, the Corporation and Commission must hold a public symposium where reporting will be discussed (DLSOIS, 2011). Two, each recipient of money shall present the results of the stem cell research at the symposium (DLSOIS, 2011). Three, the Corporation and Commission can not charge more than $75 to attend the symposium (DLSOIS, 2011). Four, the Corporation and Commission may not charge more than the minimal fee for admission (DLSOIS, 2011). And five, on or after July 1, 2012, the Corporation and Commission may adjust the minimal fee (DLSOIS, 2011). Senate Bill 731 easily passed will full support of 47-0. Senate Bill 731 was then proposed to the House on March 23, 2011 and did not pass (DLSOIS, 2011).
Because stem cells have enormous ethical issues surrounding it, research is carefully funded by the State and Federally. Stem cells have the potential to cure cancer, but laws put restrictions on research. If more money were to be funded for the research of stem cells, there would be a possibility of living in a society where you wouldn’t have to worry about getting cancer, or even the common cold. Stem cells raise many questions while giving humans hope for complete wellness.
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