Advantages And Disadvantages Of Stem Cell Research

Every year, curable diseases kill patients because of the lack of a clear path for research into the ways through which they could be cured. Stem cell research, although a form of research in its early steps of acceptance in an increasingly sensitive society, shows promise as being the form of scientific manipulation to provide the cure for disease. The current estimate is that stem cell research could solve the ailments of over 4.4 million patients in the USA alone. The sheer potential population size should be enough to convince any government as to the viability of stem cell research… Scientists should be allowed and supported by law to carry out stem cell research.

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A stem cell is simply an undifferentiated cell. This means that it is a cell with no specific function in the body yet, which makes up the most useful of its characteristics because any stem cell has the potential to become any other type of cell. This happens in the early stages of growth and development. Later, the stem cells serve individual organs as in internal repair mechanisms with otherwise limitless differentiation throughout the organism s life. The other unique thing is that even as the stem cell divides, it has the genetic choice to stick as a stem cell or continue on to become a specific cell. They were first referred to as stem cells by Alexander maksmov, the Russian histologist in 1908 hematologic society congress in Berlin The difference between a stem cell and a differentiated cell is that they are unspecialized and have the capability to continually renew themselves by cell division. The second salient difference is that is the living organism is placed under controlled experimental or physiologic conditions, stem cells can be induced to become either specific to tissue or organs. Actually, such differentiation is common in the gut and the bone marrow while in other organs such as the heart and the pancreases, they only divide under special conditions.

Since the discovery of ways of deriving embryonic and non-embryonic stem cell types in animals and humans from mouse embryos in 1981, the development in tee type of cells used has been rather slow and based on the two. The method currently in use is a modified and more efficient one from the 1998 biological research milestone that launched the deriving and nurturing of stem cells. Most of the reasons for making this method were because the human embryonic stem cells specifically for the reproductive purposes as they were studied during in vitro fertilization. Another milestone was achieved in 2006 when researchers identified the specific conditions under which a specialized adult cell could be reprogrammed, in a genetic sense, to become a stem cell or appear to be one. This new cell is referred to as induced pluripotent stem cells, simply abbreviated as iPSCs.

Stem Cell Mechanism and Uses

The mechanism is very easy to understand, since the stem cell is placed in a cultured or living environment with specialized cells. These specialized cells could be muscle cells or skin cells which have a specific and known role in the body. They are obtained from any part of the body of a fetus, or from the bone marrow, brain and muscle of adults. They offer new potentials in the issue of cell-based therapies, otherwise referred to as reparative or regenerative medicine. Continued research advances knowledge on how healthy cells replace damaged one s in living organisms. This is vital in the potential cures for diabetes, heart disease and other forms of life threatening disease. IPSCs are already proving to be useful tolls for modeling of disuse and drug development, and scientists view them as potentially important in transplantation. This is because many of the ways currently in use are potentially cancer-causing or have the risk of other complications such as viral infections. New research will aloe is vital for the development of identical matches to lower the risk of rejection and increase the number of viable organs

Stem cell research is a potential ground for a lot of detailed research for the development of mankind. First, human embryonic stem cell research will potentially yield information into the complex processes that form the tissues and organs during human development. This will provide more information on why and how such genetic disorders as cancer and birth defects can be controlled. Secondly, the use of human stem cells in research on the effects of new drugs will lower the need for human test subjects. Human pluripotent cell lines are potentially very ideal for testing new medication in the safety of the laboratory. The complication here is that the conditions have to be completely identical if the intention is to compare several drugs. The hardest part of this process is controlling the extent and effect of cell differentiation.

The potential for a more accurate process is there, but lack of enough knowledge in the real mechanisms of genetic switches and signals is hampering the process. Thirdly, the use of the stem cells in the new field of medicine called stem cell therapies is very arguably its greatest contribution to the advancement of mankind. The reason for this is that current forms of organ and tissue donation is inadequate in the supply link. This is very profound especially where the organ is single and vital. Stem cells, due to their regenerative nature, offer a potentially limitless source of transplant organs. Once directed into differentiation to become specific cell types, offering a possible cure for rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, heart disease, burns, stroke, burns, Alzheimer s diseases, spinal cord injury and other complications. Other uses are the making of insulin to enhance the management of Type I diabetes. This could be used in transplantation therapies for diabetic persons since the undifferentiated cells could be turned into insulin-prodding cells.

The Stem cell controversy

The use of embryonic stem cells has been the igniter of many controversies, ethical, legal and moral. The bone of contention is the real viability and need to use cells derived from embryos, and what effects such procedures have on their health and in vitro state. To mitigate this controversy and return to more objective research, the modern scientist has opted to use adult stem cells. This, however, has its own limitations since adult stem cells are found in fewer organs than are fetal tissue. Also, they do not have the complete genetic ability to generate into as much variant type of cells as would fetal stem cells in the same scenario. This is cause by the fact that they have a lower proliferative ability than embryonic stem cells. Simply put, the use of adult stem cells is hindered by the fact that they have a narrower avenue for their end product as compared to embryonic stem cells.

The concern for the use of embryonic stem cell is whether it would potentially harm the fetus. This is because the body of the fetus needs the cells that are removed undifferentiated. Pro-life activists argue that it is inherently genetically killing or maiming the fetus, since the removal of undifferentiated stem cells is simply taking away the very cells that the body is made up of. Pro-stem cell researchers recognize the risk, but argue that it is not as bad as the pro-life activists would want to make it sound. The strong point is that the law should allow for written consent where rather than carry out termination of a pregnancy, the couple could make written consent to have the fetus donated for stem cell research.

Alternatively, stem cell research has taken to growing the fetus ion the lab. The ova and sperm are obtained and combined in a laboratory; the embryo is nurtured and then implanted in the woman s womb. Since this is a normal procedure where the couple can not get a baby through normal means, the embryos left in the lab cannot be implanted too. They are therefore given the choice of freezing and storing them, or destroying them. Stem cell research offers a more useful alternative to this two since it gives the couple the choice to contribute to the medical research into cures for the human body. Pro-life activist argue that even at this embryonic stage, destroying the embryo is still a form of abortion. The fact of the matter is that the embryos are incapable of forming into a completely new organism or culture of embryonic stem cells that would, in theory, grow in the uterus. Given that most of this are moral inhibitions to stem cell research, the issue of whether t is right for the scientific world to sacrifice the lives of the embryos to aver countless others is worth it. The view that it is, in itself, a sacrifice of undeveloped life for the good of mankind by saving the life s of those with life threatening ailments.

Legal Milestones

The argument has become legal as in July 2001, President George W. Bush signed an executive order that limited total government funding for the existing stem cell research that use cells derived from already frozen stem cells, and completely ruled out any government funding for any new embryonic stem cell research. In 2007, President Bush had a change of mind and signed another executive order that increased funding for research into somatic stem cell differentiation. This modified form of stem cell research is where the mature of adult stem cells are derived and modified into the cell equivalent of an embryonic stem cell. This serves as the pacifier for stem cell research opponents although its scientific viability is in question. Scientism are still seeking to discover whether the somatic cells will have the same genetic condign as embryonic stem cell. As the war on the ethical basis and the legality rages on, somatic stem cell research could prove to be the clincher for the scientific world to appease the ethical proponents without compromising the quality of the science.

In 2009, President Obama signed an executive order that completely overturned the one Bush had signed in 2001, in effect restarting the government funding of embryonic stem cell research. The biggest recipient of this funding is the National Institute of Health which will get over ten billion dollars to run already existing programs and potentially, reignite the research into new embryonic stem cells. The Catholic Church, a prolific opponent of stem cell research, views this as a triumph of the political aspect over ethics and morality, but the gains that can be obtained from productive research are worth the risk.


Stem cell research offers a seemingly limitless source of cures for many of the diseases that are considered as life-threatening. The fact that it is carried out so meticulously suggests that one of the greatest issues hampering it are the lack of adequate government funding and ethical support. This coupled with a few technical and research oriented glitches mean that it is still not comprehensively documented. It is, however, impossible to ignore its potential uses and the effects on mankind. The fascination with rogation is as old as the human race, and stem cell research offers a way to turn the fantasy into a real scientific cure for disease. Cell therapy will be the future of curing disease since it offers more comprehensive ways for the therapist to detail and control the healing process of the patient. The issue of the life of the fetus can be solved by allowing for stored embryos to be used in stem cell research. It has not ethical basis to argue that it is a form of abortion, since this embryos would still have been lost in the fertilization process. This is built on the fact that the meticulous process of fertilization dictates that only one embryo can be formed from an ova and a sperm. Many excesses are discarded by the body, and it is this portion that the scientific world seeks to use for the betterment of the human race. It is an unstoppable train, but there is need for consensus building to provide a supportive approach to save the lives of many people.