The desecration of life by use of embryonic stem cells is not necessary with alternatives such as adult, placenta, and umbilical stem cells available which hold promising results. Stem cell research definitely has shown its ability to benefit humanity, but at what lengths? At what cost? America along with the world continues to battle against embryonic stem cell research as it results in termination of a human life form. With a clear understanding of what stem cells are and how they are used the evidence clearly shows that alternative forms of stems cells can lead to the same promising results without arising any ethical concerns.
The most well accepted definition of stem cells is that they are cells that can differentiate into many other different cells. Stem cells are responsible for renewing other cells and tissues within the human body. (Grompe 2) Stem cell research is the process of advancing our knowledge about how an organism develops from a single cell and how healthy cells replace damaged cells in adult organisms. This research and desired knowledge is admirable, however in 1988 this research took a turn for the worst when embryonic stem cell research began to emerge.
Pluripotents cells, or as we know them embryonic stem cells, are considered the most versatile because these cells can form into any type of human cell, and this is why scientist see embryonic research necessary. Adult stem cells withhold this same potential which will be discussed further along. The negative side to the use of embryonic stem cells is that they are derived from early embryos, which is what many view as the beginning of life. These embryos are being destroyed in the process of research thus preventing life from running its natural course.
The ethical controversies that arise in embryonic stem cell research are safety, resource allocation, and methods of harvesting cells. The safety of the existing cell lines is a concern because most of the cells have been grown in culture with the help of mouse stem cells which could lead to the transfer of dangerous animal viruses to humans. (3) The methods of harvesting the embryonic stem cells results in killing a living embryo, but some of these stem cells are produced by cloning. Cloning creates great fear in hearts and minds of the human race as the consequences of its use are unknown.
The stem cell alternatives such as adult, placenta, and umbilical cells do not raise any ethical issues. The research of stem of stem cells is important. From all three stem cells (embryonic, adult, and umbilical cord) we hope to find cures for: diabetes and brain diseases such as Parkinsons. These cells offer hope to treating diseases such as cancer and Multiple Sclerosis. While the intentions to cure diseases are important this is not the only reason for stem cell research. It is also important for scientist to understand the development of cells and how each cell holds certain properties.
This knowledge would increase the ability to utilize adult stem cells. If scientists could understand what within the cell causes it to develop into a particular function, we then could manipulate adult stem cells for the purpose need in each individual circumstance. It is also recorded that stem cell research may be useful for improvement of livestock and other animals. (Conan-Davies 1) II. Background Politicians have had to step into the topic of stem cell research as it is one of the leading controversial policies in America.
The current policy that President Bush has put into effect for embryonic stem cell and alternative stem cell research is as follows: Federal Funds will only be used for research on existing stem cell lines that were derived: (1) with the informed consent of the donors; (2) from excess embryos created solely for reproductive purposes; and (3) without any financial inducements to the donors. No federal funds will be used for: (1) the derivation or use of stem cell lines derived from newly destroyed embryos; (2) The creation of any human embryos for research purposes; or (3) the cloning of human embryos for any purpose. 7) The president decided that from the 60 lines of stem cells that already exist from private funding, research would move forth on these lines since the embryo has already been destroyed. President Bush believes that this decision will allow embryonic stem cell research to be further explored without further crossing the line of morality. President Bush, however, did strongly acknowledge the alternative stem cell research with great enthusiasm. Bush has given aggressive funding of $250 million to the research of umbilical cord, placenta, adult, and animal stem cells, as he said these do not involve the same moral dilemma.
The current policy is admirable as it does not allow the further destruction of stem cells, however, biologists are going to continue to push these lines and argue for more freedom. If embryonic stem cell research is not abolished the next president may open these doors and grant the biologists their wish with supported funding from our tax dollars. Many support embryonic stem cell research because they believe there is greater development with these cells. Those that support this research do not view embryonic stem cells as a living form of life, but more so a cluster of cells that would not be able to survive at the stage it is taken from.
However, those that oppose it stand on the grounds that it is morally unethical. These people feel that we are murdering life and taking the option of life and death into our own hands. The Christian and Catholic religious ideals usually play a strong role in the opposing side’s stance. They feel that society is trying to play God by controlling the outcome of the embryo. The opposing side also stands on the fact that embryonic stem cells have not been used on humans. Adult stem cells, an alternative research, currently treats diseases. 5) We have something that already works! With the proper funding, the opposing side believes that adult stem cells will be able to do more than treat, but cure. America is divided when it comes to stem cell research.
An individual with a religious background will more so disprove embryonic stem cell research; however those that are health-care focused will promote this research. 58% of consumers support Embryonic Stem Cell research whereas 86% of biologists support it. 60% of biologists and consumers do agree that stem cell research raises moral and ethical questions. 9) Even though many biologists are for this research, they still feel that moral lines are being crossed. The world wide view seems to be current with the American perspective. Other countries seem to be a little more liberal; however the same ethical and safety concerns still arise. III. Alternatives Stem cells are not only found in embryonic cells. Adult, placenta, and umbilical cells also offer great hope in the cure of diseases. These alternative stem cells, however, do not result in the destruction of life in any way.
Adult stem cells are undifferentiated cells found among differentiated cells in a tissue or an organ. There are very few stem cells in each tissue which poses difficulty in the cure of diseases as a large number of stem cells are needed to further research. (Pecorino 4) Adult stem cells do have a few disadvantages. For instance, they are difficult to culture and do not live long in cultures. Adult stem cells are limited to differentiating into the cell types of their origin whereas embryonic stem cells are able to become any type of cell that is needed.
There is an adult stem cell called “plasticity” which leads hope to the future use of these cells. Plasticity cells have the ability to renew itself as well as becoming other types of specialized cells. This creates a more flexible use of adult stem cells and in this respect can replace the use of embryonic stem cells. (10) One major advantage that adult stem cells offer which embryonic cells can’t is that the cells from the patient can be used and then reintroduced to the patient to cure their disease. (5) This would prevent any type of rejection, which is a high threat in embryonic stem cell use.
The only way that embryonic cells can reduce the risk of rejection is by the use of immunosuppressive drugs, which even then is not guaranteed. Immunosuppressive drugs can have many side effects including but not limited to: mouth ulcers, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, rash, low blood counts, liver scaring, lung inflammation, and various infections. (6) While embryonic stem cells can differentiate into any cell type that doesn’t always seem to be an advantage. Adult stem cells while they can not become any cell, their desired fate is easily obtained because these cells come from a narrow set of stem cells. Pecorino 4) This poses a difficulty within embryonic cells as they are not as easy to control.
The greatest disadvantage of embryonic cells is the ethical controversy behind this research. Embryos are destroyed in the process of obtaining stem cells and many people believe that human life begins with the embryo. Umbilical cord and placenta stem cells are another non life threatening stem cell that can provide further advancement in the cure of diseases by stem cells. The umbilical cord and placenta, prenatal stem cells, are full of stem cells.
Stem cells that come from the umbilical cord or placenta can be used on patients even if the donor is not an exact tissue match. Rejection does not pose a big threat with prenatal stem cells. One of the main disadvantages in stem cell research, all in all, is the small amount knowledge that we have obtained. Alternatives such as adult, placenta, and umbilical stem cells could prove to be just as helpful if not more useful if we would invest time and money into a cause that shows great promise and is ethically accepted among the world.
IV. Recommendation Stem cell research is clearly a worthy cause and investment. The research of embryonic stem cell alternatives holds great potential and should be fully explored before we even consider the research of embryos. The evidence on embryonic stem cell research is clear. Embryonic stem cell research is not necessary with adult, placenta, and umbilical stem cells available which are proving to show the same results. The public has spoken, and society has given rise to the moral concerns of embryonic stem cell research.
America along with the rest of the world does view embryonic research unethical whether it is because a living embryo is destroyed, cloning of the embryo is becoming a common practice in this research, or the risk of animal diseases transferring to humans. Society is taking a stand. The entire purpose of stem cell research is to cure diseases and prevent death; however embryonic research results in killing of life and raises the possibility of new diseases emerging among civilization. It imposes the very things it wishes to prevent.
While the alternatives offer some disadvantages, with increased knowledge, the opportunity to overcome these set backs is made possible. The advancement in adult “plasticity” cells would bring adult cells on the same level of embryonic cells. Plasticity cells will have the ability to become other types of cells which is similar to the function embryonic cells. (5) Alternative stem cells do not pose the threat of rejection and they are easy to control. The advantages of alternative stem cell research are growing, and with increased knowledge and research it could prove to be even more beneficial than embryonic stem cells.
Scientific proof is developing, even at this very moment. Stem cell research is clearly a worthy cause and investment. Let us use our funding and energy into research that does not defy our humanity and dignity. We must remember America was founded on morals and ethics, and embryonic stem cell research spoils the ideals that are the spirit of this country. Life is precious, and life is not expendable. Let us not trade one life for another. Alternative stem cell research does not force us into these ethical decisions. Chose life… Chose the alternative stem cell research.