Stem Cell Research: For Better or for Worse?

For as long as humans exist, optimal health continues to remain vital for a productive life. As new medical discoveries increase through generations, humans become healthier, therefore, their life expectancy rises. Stem cell research, a relatively new field, investigates to improve and lengthen human life. The possibility of stem cells to develop prospering health makes them beneficial to the human race.
Why do stem cell debates create such a large uproar? Stem cells posses the potential to arise into hundreds of different cells in the body- for this reason stem cells are also referred to as undifferentiated cells. Stem cells’ value also comes from their ability to “replicate many times, or proliferate” (“Stem Cell Basics” 1). Scientists suggest stem cells acquire the capability to treat debilitating immune complications such as: Alzheimer’s diseases, spinal cord injury, stroke, burns, heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis (“Stem Cell Basics” 1). Scientists obtain these dynamic cells from two sources: embryos and adults.
Embryonic stem cells exist in three to five day-old embryos, also known as blastocysts, but to obtain this type of stem cell causes inevitable death of the embryos (“Stem Cell Basics” 1). This causes concern in people, but scientists aspire to use embryonic stem cells because they are pluripotent- capable of transforming into all types of body cells except for the placenta (Robertson 191). By conducting experiments using these versatile cells, scientists enhance understanding about human development and advance treating illness and disease. While utilizing embryonic stem cells, Hans R. Keirstead found “human embryonic cells allow paralyzed rats to partially regain the ability to walk after their spinal cords had been damaged” (Hall 21). Success with embryonic stem cells in rats instills confidence that scientists can use stem cells to uncover ways to alleviate human injuries too.
Although embryonic stem cells contain abilities to enrich human health, a less controversial source of stem cells remains- adult stem cells. Collecting adult stem cells takes place in numerous locations of the body such as: bone marrow, muscle, the brain, umbilical cords, and adipose tissue (Guinan 308). Goldstein documents of experimental findings how human brain stem cells “can achieve ninety to ninety-five perfect purity in combination with several previous steps” (207). However, scientists remained uncertain about the functionality of adult stem cells because they “typically generate the cell types of the tissues in which they reside” (“Stem Cell Basics” 1), but in 2006 a Kyoto University team discovered the ability to engineer adult stem cells into pluripotent stem cells (“New Method” 4). Recent technology allows scientists to “directly covert somatic cells to pluripotent cells regardless of availability of embryonic cells” (Han 278). This technology may foster the growth of stem cell research because it removes the challenge of accessing to pluripotent cells. Induced pluripotent stem cells potential to “promote patient specific and disease specific drug development” (Manohar 1) makes them even more constructive than embryonic stem cells when considering rejection by the host. Induced pluripotent stem cells attain the same flexibility as embryonic stem cells but lack the controversial aspect.
Researching of stem cells encompasses various advances in human well-being, but the question remains: is the gain worth the loss? Patrick Guinan defines that the ethical standpoint of embryonic stem cell research needs questioning because it terminates a blastocyst that attains the prospective to establish a human being (306). On the contrary, Catherine Waldby and Susan Squier identify the embryo as merely an “idea of human life” (Lauritzen 27) therefore they find no destructive behavior in embryonic stem cell research. Louis Geunin disputes “embryo-destructive experiments could gain justification only if were argued that it is sometimes permissible to kill some persons in order to help other persons” (1). Martha Nussbaum, an opponent of embryonic stem cell research, articulates about the excessiveness of stem cell research and that it may diminish humanity (Lauritzen 30). Geunin defends stem cell research by questioning why embryonic stem cell research displeases people, specifically Christians. He positions ancient religious texts not only provide little guidance, but also possess no knowledge about embryology (1). Even though quarrel over stem cell research continues, sixty-seven percent of Americans support embryonic stem cell research (Hall 18).
Despite the discrepancy, research demonstrates stem cells retain the facility to improve humans. An estimated 50,000 adult stem cell transplants occur worldwide each year (“Rethinking Stem Cell Research” 9). Who wants to be troubled by the sicknesses of life? If research proceeds, stem cells may be the key to unlocking flawless health. 

 

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