Counterpoint to “Power of Stem Cell Research”
In the last issue of The Monitor, an article about the power of embryonic stem cell research was published. I found that the information provided showed only one side of the research of embryonic stem cells. This article was written in order to provide a more complete image of stem cell research.
Embryonic stem cells were first discovered in 1998, and it was found that the cells had potential to develop into nearly any type of cell due to the fact that they are “unspecialized”, i.e. they have no specific function. When found, embryonic stem cells were isolated for further research. The discovery caused a wave of theories about stem cells, the main being that they could possibly help heal diseases that are otherwise incurable. Parkinson’s, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer are a few examples. Based on current research, there is a prospect that these embryonic stem cells could grow into organs that are affected by disease and need to be removed. However, there is no current proof that stem cells can fulfill their task without side effects that could make the situation worse.
Adult stem cells are similar to embryonic stem cells in which they have promise to grow into new cells to replace diseased ones. Adult stem cells were originally only found in bone marrow, but new research shows that, like embryonic stem cells, they can be found in most organs throughout the body, such as the brain, the heart, and skin. Adult stem cells are more stable than embryonic stem cells, however, embryonic stem cells regenerate quicker and are found to be more versatile. Even so, the embryonic stem cell experiments with animals are found to have a 20% rate of side effects and rejection. There are still many years before stem cell experimentation with humans can be possible. Adult stem cells have a smaller probability of rejection, but are able to contract diseases unlike their embryonic counterparts.
The main discussion throughout stem cell research is whether or not it is correct ethically and morally. Many people from the pro-life group and religious group find that the procedure involved in harvesting embryonic stem cells is murder, due to the fact that their definition of life starts at conception, and the embryos are destroyed to find the stem cells. On the other hand, many scientists and people from the pro-choice group find that the method used is fine and needed, as they believe that a fetus is not a human being until born, and that a single life is a worthy sacrifice if it will save many. Adult stem cells have a less controversial discussion, but are less researched because of the fact embryonic stem cells are considered “pure”.
While there is no definitive proof on whether stem cells can restore to health those ailed by major diseases such as cancer or multiple sclerosis, the research found on both embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells has potential not found in other investigations. Both types of stem cells have pros and cons that may or may not create controversy. In the end, it is up to the future to decide which type is focused on to eventually produce medicine, and which type is abandoned for good.