"You'll Believe a Man Can Fly"! This was the tagline for the movie Superman (1978) starring actor Christopher Reeve, who had gotten into in a horseback-riding incident in 1995 and was paralyzed from the neck down. His interest in stem cell research grew and he became a strong activist on more federal funding for stem cell research. But what exactly are stem cells? Stem cells are cells that can develop into specialized cell types, a characteristic known as pluripotency (Anderson, 2009). Since stem cells are able to become any cell, they have potential to be used in treatment methods or even cures for conditions such as Alzheimer's & Parkinson's disease, diabetes, spinal cord injury, stroke, cancer, heart disease, etc (Lee, 2009). However, stem cell research is a heavily debated issue, both politically and ethically. It is essential that the Canadian government supports and funds stem cell research due to the potential pluripotent embryonic and adult stem cells have on curing or treating medical conditions, the ability of being researched ethically, and the biological insight stem cell research would contribute.
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Without a doubt, the top reason scientists are conducting research in this field is due to the miraculous potential stem cells hold. In fact, stem cells can generate brand new tissue by forming any specialized cell (Anderson, 2009). In theory, stem cells have the ability to treat serious medical conditions which includes neural diseases, spinal-cord injury (what Reeve suffered), because of their pluripotent nature. For instance, stem cells used on paralyzed rats improved their condition (Viegas, 2003). Fully developed humans provide a reservoir for stem cells, known as adult stem cells. Adult stem cells were previously thought to be ineffective due to their restricted abilities but in the past 10 years or so, stem cell research has rapidly advanced. Adult stem cells can be just as useful as embryonic stem cells. Not only do stem cells have the potential to treat and cure medical conditions, but they can and are used in drug tests (Bethesda, 2009). Mostly, a commercial product is tested on stem cells before animals and humans in the product's testing stages. Furthermore, stem cells can create and unlimited amount of specialized tissue which means they can be used to imitate disease process should the product react negatively (Viegas, 2003). Should something undesirable happen to the tissue, the product obviously needs to be altered before retesting it on stem cells again. Therefore, the fact that embryonic and adult stem cells can form specialised cells, the ability to be used for drug tests and generate unlimited amount of tissue makes stem cell research worth funding. But without the Canadian government's support, how will Canadian scientists conduct research and possibly make a breakthrough that will help all of humanity?
Stem cells not only have the potential to cure medical conditions, but also be extracted and tested ethically. The major source of embryonic stem cells is from in vitro fertilization centers. The aborted foetuses and leftover eggs just sitting around serve little purpose. Scientists take these and try to study them. However, some people would argue that an embryo could've been a person and denying them the chance to live their life is very unethical (Robinson, 2007). There can be a compromise for both sides, and the answer is adult stem cells. Adult stem cells aren't like embryonic stem cells because they are extracted from formed (Robinson, 2007). Adult stem cells are found on children and adults and have been studied for two decades longer than embryonic stem cells. The treatment methods involving adult stem cells are more practical than the treatment methods for embryonic stem cells. For instance, research on adult stem cells treating incurable blindness is being worked on (Bethesda, 2009). Adult stem cells have been extracted from bone marrow and cadavers. In fact, scientists have now discovered that adult stem cells even exist in the brain and the heart (Viegas, 2003). Some people even argue that embryos haven't taken a breath and aren't protected by law (Robinson, 2007). For these reasons, it is imperative that the Canadian government show more support for stem cell research.
Aside from the ethical viewpoints, stem cell research provides valuable biological information for scientists. The study of stem cells will provide scientists worldwide with information on human biology because stem cells relate to biomedical research in general (Panno, 2005). The early developmental stages of the cell are one of the areas stem cell research can give a better understanding to. Stem cell research goes into this area of cell study and might be able to show how abnormally developed cell develop into birth defects, cancer, diseases and will allow scientists to learn more about this. If scientists learn more about this, it will be easier to use medicine to prevent such medical conditions from occurring. There has been a recent lift on a funding ban for stem cell research in the United States. President Barack Obama lifted the ban on stem cell research and Canada risks losing its brightest scientists. If the Canadian government doesn't fund stem cell research, the bright scientific minds will go to the United States in order to have access to the best resources. The Brain Drain effect occurs and Canada might lose its status as an industry leader in stem cell research. (CBC News, 2009) Cutting edge science is incredibly competitive. It's like building a hockey team - if suddenly our salary cap is half what it is elsewhere, it can be hard to build that team. - Michael Rudnicki. The urgency of support needed from the Canadian government is evident since stem cell provides biological information on humans, help scientists understand medical applications, and avoid brain drain in the long run.
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It is imperative that stem cell research be supported by the Canadian government since stem cells have the potential to give patients with serious medical conditions another chance, can be free from ethical concerns and also advance our understanding of human biology. Whether stem cells are regarded as regenerative medicine or an unethical field of research that needs to be stopped right away, there is no denying of the capabilities stem cells have to offer. The pluripotent abilities of stem cells might be fully unleashed in the future by ways of treatment or cures. However, much needs to be understood about stem cells so every effort is required to make the Canadian government fund stem cell research (Lee, 2009). It might take years for stem cells to be developed into a practical method of treatment or cure, but if successful, prolonged human lives are indefinitely insured (Bethesda, 2009).