RUNNING HEAD: STUDY ON STEM CELL
Stem Cell Research
Stem Cell Research
In light of the continued advancement of technology and research in the medical field, there have been some groundbreaking developments that have been heralded as indications that scientific research can produce remarkable results when it is integrated with technology. Since the turn of the 20th century, major breakthroughs like the discovery of DNA and the development of anti-retroviral drugs for HIV/AIDS have been cited as the reason why scientific research especially in the medical field must be supported. Research on Stem cell has been particularly singled out as a new avenue for prolonging life and alleviating diseases, but just like all scientific research developments it has come with its fair share of controversy. (Prentice, 1998).
Stem cells can be categorized as biological cells that exist in all organisms; they are capable of self-renewal and divide and differentiated to form new cells. They are divided into two major categories: embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells. This paper scrutinizes the pros and cons of stem cell research, with special prominence on embryonic stem cell study.
Treatment of Diseases
Embryonic stem cells have been cited as having the capability to grow into any kind of cells, for instance bone marrow cells or brain cells. They have the potential to renew themselves and as a result can be used to develop therapies for various kinds of diseases. Some of the ailments which can be treated or whose effects can reduced through the use of embryonic stem cells include cancer, diabetes, Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, stroke and heart diseases. This is often mentioned by scientists and proponents of embryonic stem cell investigation as a valid reason to support this venture in order to help rid the world of the devastating effects of the above-mentioned diseases.
Enabling Transplantation and Reducing the Dangers Associated With it.
As mentioned earlier in this paper, embryonic stem cells have the potential of developing into any type of cell. This means when grown and cultured in the right conditions they can be used to grow tissues and in the long run organs. It is widely acknowledged that a lot of deaths occur today that can be prevented by people receiving alternative organs. Millions of people across the world suffer from heart, kidney and lung defects and a majority of them end up dying simply because a donor could not be found. According to Coppo (1996), this is where embryonic stem cell investigation comes in. With the capability of developing new organs out of stem cells, the shortage in compatible organs can be reduced and as a result deaths and diseases resulting from diseases affecting various organs can be prevented.
Embryonic Stem Cells are Superior to Adult Stem Cells
A lot of arguments have been made to support the use of adult stem cells rather than embryonic stem cells. Proponents of these arguments claim that adult stem cells can be used for exactly the same purpose for which their embryonic counterparts are intended, and can produce even better results. This is actually not true. Embryonic stem cells exhibit more superior characteristics when compared to adult stem cells, which means they produce better results and display a flexibility which adult stem cells cannot match. Adult stem cells can be an alternative, but any stem cell researcher will tell you that if given a choice he will go for embryonic stem cells without much hesitation. (Coppo, 1996).
Destruction of Life
In the process of harvesting stem cells from an embryo the embryo is destroyed. Some scientists are said to have managed to do this while preserving the embryo at the same time, but this is very rare. In embryonic stem cell study an embryo is fertilized with the sole purpose of collecting stem cells from it, destroying it in the process. A number of opponents of stem cell research especially those who are pro-life say that an embryo has life, and if allowed to develop can produce a human being. Embryonic stem cell study therefore destroys life in its quest to collect stem cells. Prentice (1998), cites this as a complete disregard of human life and as a result anything that does not appear to support the progression of the human race should not be allowed to prosper.
Development of Tumors
There have been numerous cases of embryonic stem cells multiplying spontaneously and uncontrollably leading to the development of tumors. It is a well-known fact that embryonic stem cells can divide and differentiate to form new cells or tissues; the problem arises when this division is so rapid and uncontrolled that it produces tumors in an individual. (Coppo, 1996). This problem is compounded by the fact that scientists themselves have not been able to figure it out bring it under control. It is inhuman and irresponsible to inflict more misery on someone under the pretext of helping them. Tumors whether malignant or benign bring great discomfort in people’s lives and require a lot of money to remove. If embryonic stem cells are not differentiated completely before being used, they can migrate to the entire body and cause tumors.
It Is Costly and Unethical
Stem cell study is one of the most heavily funded and expensive areas of medical and scientific research. Billions of dollars are channeled into this venture without looking at potential risks and alternative areas where that money could be used. Research on embryonic stem cell and stem cell research in general, is a branch of medical research that is loaded with potential, but that is all there is to it: potential. According to Dubois (2004), it is ignorant to spend colossal amounts of money on pipe dreams when there are more immediate problems that can be tackled with that money.
Governments and donors everywhere need to turn their attention and funds to immediate issues and the prevention and control of diseases rather than channeling finances to other avenues which have nothing to offer other than potential.
No New Cure Yet
For all the arguments presented over the years about the study embryonic stem cell being able to provide a way of treating and curing diseases, there has actually been no development of any cure for any disease since stem cell research began. (Dubois, 2004).
With this in consideration, can we really trust that this research will someday yield the results it is so often associated with? For how long shall we hope and wait that one day stem cell research will be able to provide the cure for diabetes, cancer, leukemia and other diseases that have ravaged the human race for decades? It is only pragmatic that we focus on handling and solving our immediate problems; food sustainability, control and prevention of diseases and creation of jobs are just some of the key areas which need our undivided attention.
The arguments presented above all offer valid and concrete reasons to either support or oppose embryonic stem cell research. Taking into account everything, the arguments against it seem to have a stronger case and therefore I am of the opinion that embryonic stem cell research and stem cell research in general are not really worth the time money and other resources dedicated to them. There are more pressing issues that can be solved with that time or money, and therefore stem cell research can take a back seat for some time; we can come back to it later.
Coppo, Terence. (1996). Reproductive Technology: A Research Guide to the Legal
Status of the Frozen Human Embryo. New York: William S. Hein & Co., Inc.
Dubois, William. (2004). The Fallacy Behind Stem Cell Research: What You Do Not Know.
Chicago: SUNY Press.
Kellman, Laurie. (2001). Embryonic Stem Cell Research Vs Adult Stem Cell Research: An
Insight Into The Field Of Stem Cell Research. Boston: Routledge Press.
Prentice, David. (1998). The Real Promise of Stem Cell Research. London: Randall Press.