Stem Cell Research Alicia Vos

What is stem cell research?

Stem cell research is used to treat disease and injury. A stem cell is different than any other cell in the body in its ability to renew itself; it can divide into many more cells similar to the original cell. Somatic stem cells can be found in specific tissues in the body, they can make only the kind of cells found in the tissue where they reside. Embryonic stem cells are derived from five-day-old blastocysts that are precursors to embryos and they can generate into any type of cell in the body.

Primary sources for embryonic stem cells are aborted fetuses, and the donated and unused embryos housed in in vitro fertilization (IVF) facilities. To obtain embryonic stem cells, an embryo is formed and allowed to mature for five to seven days. The inner mass of the stem cells is then removed, plated and treated with chemicals to become specialized cell types.

What are the financial aspects?

In embryonic stem cell research, there is an extreme inefficiency of harvest. This because the process requires a woman's eggs. To treat, for example, the 17 million diabetes patients in the United States would require a minimum of 850 million to 1.7 billion human eggs. Collecting ten eggs per donor would require a minimum of 85 to 170 million women. The total cost would be $100,000 to $200,000 for 50 to 100 human eggs per each patient. Generally, any experimental technique has a very high cost, making unavailable to the public.

What are the ethics behind stem cell research?

Science brings society to the next level; ethics keep us there. Dr. Hal simeroth

A large portion of the debate behind stem cell research is associated with embryonic stem cells. Stem cell research thus raised difficult questions:

  • Does life begin at fertilization or the womb?
  • Is a human embryo equivalent to a human child?
  • Does a human embryo have any rights?
  • Might the destruction of a single embryo be justified if it provides a cure for a countless number of patients?
  • Since embryonic stem cells can grow indefinitely in a dish and can, in theory, still grow into a human being, is the embro really destroyed?

Many of these questions have been left unanswered, so embryonic stem cell research has yet to be experimented with in humans. The stem cells have been deemed "unproven," and "unsafe." They tend to produce malignant carcinomas, cause transplant rejection, and form the wrong kinds of cells

Private investors aren't funding embryonic stem cell research. They are funding adult stem cell research, which is an ethical alternative. However, adult, or somatic stem cells are unable to differentiate into any type of cell the way embryonic stem cells are able to.

Some of the most startling advancements using adult stem cells have come in treating Parkinson's disease, juvenile diabetes, and spinal cord injuries.

Advancements in Technology?

Gene Therapy

Gene therapy is an experimental technique that uses genes to treat or prevent disease. It works by replacing a mutated gene that causes disease with a healthy copy of the gene, inactivating, or “knocking out,” a mutated gene that is functioning improperly, then introducing a new gene into the body to help fight a disease

Gene therapy can be used as a form of genetic engineering which involves changing genes in eggs, sperm, or very early embryos. This type of engineering is inheritable, meaning that the modified genes such as hair or eye colour, or changes is genetic diseases, would appear not only in any children that resulted from the procedure, but in all succeeding generations. This type of genetic engineering is called, germline gene therapy.

  • How can “good” and “bad” uses of gene therapy be distinguished?
  • Who decides which traits are normal and which constitute a disability or disorder?
  • Will the high costs of gene therapy make it available only to the wealthy?
  • Could the widespread use of gene therapy make society less accepting of people who are different?
  • Should people be allowed to use gene therapy to enhance basic human traits such as height, intelligence, or athletic ability?

Even though parents want what is best for their child, they should not be allowed to change the genetics of their offspring. Humans need to consider gene therapy as a gift of life, something that could change people’s lives by possibly curing them of a terminal disease or even preventing them from having such a disease in the first place. Humans should not be thinking of it as a gift of aesthetic. Instead of changing their child to be something that it’s not, the parents should teach their child to “act tall,” to demand and earn respect because of his/ her personality rather than their looks. Assuming the embryo even lives, considering gene therapy is still in clinical trials, it is better to teach a child to have a “tall attitude,” than to gamble their life for the sole purpose of changing their appearance, even if all they wish is the best. Humans do not have the right to play God for aesthetic. However, for the purpose of treating disease, embryonic stem cells are a beneficial alternative to traditional methods. Yet, I believe that there should be more testing to ensure the stem cells are entirely safe for use on humans.

Credits:

Created with images by skeeze - "blood cells cells human" • euthman - "Spine of Human Embryo" • DrKontogianniIVF - "embryo ivf icsi" • Caroline Davis2010 - "DNA" • jdn2001cn0 - "jar beaker lab" • yancharris - "bubbles abstract blue"

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