Stem Cell Research – English Essay
Someone you love is suffering from juvenile diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, spinal cord injury, MS, ALS, certain forms of cancer, or even heart disease. The only hope of finding a cure for these serious diseases is through stem cell research. Would you support stem cell research? Should you support it? Is stem cell research right or wrong?
Would you do everything possible to help this loved one whom is
suffering every single day of his or her life? These are all diseases that have no cure and often worsen day by day. Stem cell research is the most promising way to finding cures for many of these diseases.
What exactly is a stem cell? According to the Stem Cell Act, “stem cells are unspecialized cells that can develop into more mature, specialized cells. They are found in embryos during their first few days of development, in fetal tissue, and more rarely, in some adult organs.
Scientists work with both embryonic and adult stem cells, but embryonic stem cells are the more promising because they are “pluripotent,” meaning that they have the potential to differentiate into tissue of almost any organ (brain, liver, heart, pancreas, etc.) of the human body. Adult stem cells, on the other hand, are merely “multipotent” meaning that they generate just a few tissue types, and are difficult to extract and grow, and many tissues cannot be derived from adult stem cells.” This is why stem cells are so important and why scientists think that they can find cures for diseases through stem cell research.
What are embryonic stem cells, and why are they important? According to the National Institute of Health, “embryonic stem cells, as their name suggests, are derived form embryos. Specifically, embryonic stem cells are derived from embryos that develop from eggs that have been fertilized in vitro-in an in vitro fertilization clinic-and then donated for research purposes with informed consent of the donors. They are not derived from eggs fertilized in a woman’s body. They embryos from which human embryonic stem cells are derived are typically four or five days old and are a hollow microscopic ball of cells called the blastocyst. The blastocyst includes three structures: the trophoblast, which is the layer of cells that surrounds the blastocyst; the blastocoel, which is the hollow cavity inside the blastocyst; and the inner cell mass, which is a group of approximately 30 cells at one end of the blastocel.”
Embryonic stem cells can be grown in the laboratory. According to the National Institute of Health, “growing cells in the laboratory is known as cell culture. Human embryonic stem cells are isolated by transferring the inner cell mass into a plastic laboratory culture dish that contains a nutrient broth known as culture medium. The cells divide and spread over the surface of the dish. The inner surface of the culture dish is typically coated with mouse embryonic skin cells that have been treated so they will not divide. This coating layer of cells is called a feeder layer. The reason for having the mouse cells in the bottom of the culture dish is to give the inner cell mass cells a sticky surface to which they can attach. Also, the feeder cells release nutrients into the culture medium. Recently, scientists have begun to devise ways of growing embryonic stem cells without the mouse feeder cells. This is a significant advancement because of the risk that viruses or other macromolecules in the mouse cells may be transmitted to the human cells. Over the course of several days, the cells of the inner cell mass proliferate and begin to crowd the culture dish. When this occurs they are removed gently and plated into several fresh dishes. The process of replating the cells is repeated many rimes and for many months, and is also called subculturing. Each cycle of subculturing the cells is referred to as a passage. After six months or more, the original 30 cells of the inner cell mass yield millions of embryonic stem cells. Embryonic stem cells that have proliferated in cell culture for six or more months without differentiating, are pluripotent, and appear genetically normal are referred to as an embryonic stem cell line.”
What are adult stem cells? According to the National Institute of Health, “an adult stem cell is an undifferentiated cell found among differentiated cells in a tissue or organ, can renew itself, and can differentiate to yield the major specialized cell types of the tissue or organ. The primary roles of adult stem cells in a living organism are to maintain and repair the tissue in which they are found. Some scientists now use the term somatic stem cell instead of adult stem cell. Unlike embryonic stem cells, which are defined by their origin (the inner cell mass of the blastocyst), the origin of adult stem cells in mature tissue is unknown.”
Where are adult stem cells found and what do they do? According to the National Institute of Health, “adult stem cells have been identified in many organs and tissue. One important point to understand about adult stem cells is that there are a very small number of stem cells in each tissue. Stem cells are though to reside in a specific area of each tissue where they may remain quiescent (non-dividing) for many years until they are activated by disease or tissue injury. The adult tissues reported to contain stem cells include brain, bone marrow, peripheral blood, blood vessels, skeletal muscle, skin and liver.”
The National Institute of Health also states, “Research on adult stem cells has recently generated a great deal of excitement. Scientists have found adult stem cells in many more tissues than they once thought possible. This finding has led scientists to ask whether adult stem cells could be used for transplants. In fact, adult blood forming stem cells from bone marrow have been used in transplants for 30 years. Certain kinds of adult stem cells seem to have the ability to differentiate into a number of different cell types, given the right conditions. If this differentiation of adult stem cells can be controlled in the laboratory, these cells may become the basis of therapies for many serious common diseases.”
There are many similarities and differences between embryonic and adult stem cells. According to the National Institute of Health, “human embryonic and adult stem cells each have advantages and disadvantages regarding potential use for cell-based regenerative therapies. Of course, adult and embryonic stem cells differ in the number and type of differentiated cells types they can become. Embryonic stem cells can become all cell types of the body because they are pluripotent. Adult stem cells are generally limited to differentiating into different cell types of their tissue of origin. However, some evidence suggests that adult stem cell plasticity may exist, increasing the number of cell types a given adult stem cell can become. Large numbers of embryonic stem cells can be relatively easily grown in culture, while adult stem cells are rare in mature tissues and methods for expanding their numbers in cell culture have not yet been worked out. This is an important distinction, as large numbers of cells are needed for stem cell replacement therapies.”
Many people feel that stem cell research is ethically wrong, especially embryonic stem cell research. Many Americans feel that an embryo is a human being, and that it should be treated as one. The destruction of one life can not be justified by trying to save another life. The fact that a frozen embryo will eventually die does not justify killing it prematurely. Many people feel that letting them die is not the same as experimenting on them or killing them. Everyone eventually dies, but that does not justify experimenting on stem cell embryos which in turn will kill them.
Although, people feel that experimenting on embryonic stem cells is ethically wrong, they need to look at the benefits that can come from these embryos. By studying embryonic stem cells scientists believe that they will be able to find cures for many diseases that affect people of all ages. Millions of Americans have abortions each and every day. Is abortion ethical? If people are going to be allowed to have abortions, then why not benefit from their choices. If they choose to kill their baby, then why not try to help others by using the embryonic stem cells. It is not like scientists are going to purposely kill embryos. By ending one life, millions and millions of lives can be saved or at least prolonged. It is very important to look at the benefits that can come from embryonic stem cell research, before making a rash decision.
President Bush has agreed to government funding of stem cell research. Although, he feels that it is ethically wrong, he believes that by studying embryos that are already frozen and collected, scientists may be able to discover new cures and or treatments for many illnesses. Whether it is ethically right or wrong, many scientists are already experimenting on embryos through privately funded companies.
No matter what they do people are not going to be able to stop scientists from experimenting on these embryos, so why not support them. Embryonic stem cell research is now legal in California, which means that many scientists across the nation will move to California to experiment on embryos. California has voted yes on a $3 billion fund for stem cell research. This means that government money will be used along with the privately funded money to pay for stem cell research, which will allow more advanced research. If it is legal in one state, why not allow it in every state. By supporting scientists and allowing them to use government money on stem cell research, we can increase the ability of these scientist to find cures for some of the most critical and crucial diseases.
There are many different potential uses of human stem cells and many different obstacles that must be overcome before these potential uses will be realized. According to the National Institute of Health, “there are many ways in which human stem cells can be used in basic research and in clinical research. However, there are many technical hurdles between the promise of stem cells and the realization of these uses, which will only be overcome by continued intensive stem cell research. Studies of human embryonic stem cells may yield information about the complex events that occur during human development. A primary goal of this work is to identify how undifferentiated stem cells become differentiated. Scientists know that turning genes on and off is central to this process. Some of the most serious medical conditions, such as cancer and birth defects, are due to abnormal cell division and differentiation. A better understanding of the genetic and molecular controls of these processes may yield information about how such diseases arise and suggest new strategies for therapy. A significant hurdle to this use and most uses of stem cells is that scientists do not yet fully understand the signals that turn specific genes on and off to influence the differentiation of the stem cell.”
Although there are many different battles and obstacles that scientists face in stem cell research, it is the most promising way to cures. Embryonic stem cell research is thought of as unethical, but people should look at the whole picture when deciding whether or not to support it or if it should be allowed. Allowing stem cell research and supporting it would help and maybe even cure millions of people with serious illnesses. Although, there are other alternatives to embryonic stem cell research, it is thought to have the most promise. Embryonic and Adult stem cell research should be allowed as long as there are certain limits placed upon it. This helps in preventing any abuse of the research. Think of the lives that could be saved by this research, and say yes to stem cell research.