Stem Cell

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Should Federal Science Research Funding Support Stem Cell Research?

Stem cells are immature cells that have not yet specialized into a cell with a specific function. Adult stem cells come from developed tissue. They are multipotent, meaning they can only specialize into a certain cells, depending on their origin. Embryonic stem cells are derived from blastocysts and are pluripotent meaning they can specialize into any type of cell in the body. Extracting the stem cells kills the embryo. Stem cells often come from unwanted embryos fertilized in-vitro or donations from abortions. Adult stem cells used for research generally come from animals. Stem cell lines are created by extracting a single cell a blastula. The cell develops in a suitable environment to divide without differentiating. The cells can then be used for treatments by making them specialize or for research.

When researching, scientists develop a model that's supposed to mimic the effects of stem cells in human bodies. These experiments are performed on stem cell lines although some use animals for experimentation. The cells could be studied to improve knowledge of early cell development and abnormalities. The cells could also be used to research the effects of drugs on specialized human cells.

Many are researched to improve stem cell therapy so more diseases can be treated more effectively.

What make stem cells beneficial to the medical community are its abilities to divide many times and to differentiate into specialized cells. Scientists have been developing research in an attempt to harness this unique ability. However, stem cell research is surrounded by a great deal of controversy regarding the ethics, safety, and cost. However, regardless of the risks, stem cell research and therapy funding should be continued.

Most who oppose stem cell research believe that the moment an egg is fertilized, it obtains a human life. They believe all lives are equal and it is immoral to sacrifice one life to prolong the life of another. This issue is addressed in one of my arguments. Many also insist that transplanting stem cells into humans and ensuring they match the intended tissue is risky as the body is likely to reject the cells. However, additional funding could eradicate these problems. Many argue that the retrieval of eggs for in-vitro fertilization has risks due to the use of anaesthesia and chance of an infection or of damage to an organ or blood vessel. However, as explained later on, the women whose eggs are retrieved volunteered for the process and stem cell research uses the spares, which means the risks exist whether the embryos were used for research or not. Many are also opposed to the increase in taxes when it comes to funding. However, the disorders that could be cured with stem cells currently cost lots of money for aid that is not permanent and, as I explain in one of my arguments, the benefits that could come from research outweigh any expenses.

A fact often overlooked by those opposed to stem cell research is the origin of many of the embryos used. Many of the embryos used come from in-vitro fertilization clinics. The eggs are extracted from the female, fertilized, and then inserted back into the female's uterus hopefully causing pregnancy. The unused embryos are frozen so they may be used again if no pregnancy occurs or are donated to infertile couples. However this process leaves a large amount of unused embryos. These extra embryos are either frozen or end up destroyed. These embryos that would have been destroyed are instead contributing to the advancement of medical research, which could be used to save several lives. Therefore, the research is not causing the destruction of embryos, just using them more efficiently.

Many insist that one life should not be sacrificed for another. However, this statement could work both ways. Should a developed, sentient human being is allowed to suffer or die at the hands of a disorder in order to spare the life of an embryo? Although an embryo actively divides and changes, it has not developed into a human being at this stage. Stem cells are usually from a blastula seven days after the egg was fertilized while the foetus does not develop a brain until two months into the pregnancy. The embryo does not have organs, senses, or a nervous system at this point. It cannot think nor feel as the brain has not developed. Therefore, it is not yet a human. Also, the embryos used are not ones that anyone has a personal connection with. Therefore, no one would be hurt or affected by its death. However, those dying due to illnesses that could be cured by stem cell research do feel and have thoughts. They have relationships with families or friends. They feel pain and are surrounded by those that are affected as much as they are by their disorder. This is not the case with embryos.

Stem cells have the ability to replace damaged cells in the body making its potential vast.

Leukemia is a cancer of the white blood cells and occurs when those white blood cells malfunction.

Stem cells are used to treat this disease by replacing bone marrow, where the white blood cells are produced, with specialized stem cells producing healthy blood cells. That is one of the many ways stem cells could be used to save lives. With further research, they could treat Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's, cancer, and other presently incurable disorders. This could all be accomplished by making the stem cells differentiate into the necessary cell type and transplanting it into the body, replacing damaged cells. This would help fix the shortage of organ and blood donations. Stem cells could also differentiate into tissues for drugs and medicines to be tested on, making the process of testing drugs more efficient and produce more accurate information about the effects on humans. All these treatments and cures could be developed with more research, which requires funding.

Not only are there biological arguments against stem cell research, here are those who reject the research because of ethical and religious issues. Norgaard, a leader in the field of ecological economics presents a good point:

Humans could acquire characteristics so superior to our own, or so entirely new, that what it means to be human, even for those left behind, would be forever lost. Those bioethicists with a broader view worry about the public control of our genetic makeup as they struggle with the inanities of earlier eugenics movements and the horrors of the Holocaust. There are also a few Christian theologians who are portraying genetic engineering as an opportunity for people to participate in and continue God's project (Norgaard 259).

Although there are risks involved in stem cell research and therapy, they are small when compared to the vast amount of medical advancements that could be made with further research and funding. As the embryos are not yet human beings and would have been destroyed anyways, the risks are worthwhile when the potential benefits are considered.

Works Cited

Blagosklonny, M.V. "Target for cancer therapy: proliferating cells or stem cells." Leukemia 20.3 (2006): 385-391. Web. 20 Feb 2010. <>.

Genetic Science Learning Center (2008, October 14) What is a Stem Cell? Learn. Genetics. Retrieved

October 14, 2008, from http://learn.genetics.utah.edulcontentltech/stemcells/scintro/

Norgaard, Richard. "Posthuman Enough?." Bioscience 54.3 (2004): 255-259. Web. 20 Feb 2010. <>.

Stewart, Craig, Daniel Dickerson, and Rose Hotchkiss. "Beliefs About Science and News Frames in Audience Evaluations of Embryonic and Adult Stem Cell Research." Science Communication. 30.4 (2009): 427-452. Print.