Master Cells of the Human Body

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Two of humanity’s main priorities are at stake: protecting life and curing disease. Embryonic stem cells are the solution to the many unanswered questions surrounding these priorities. Many people question why scientists cannot simply use adult stem cells for their research instead of using embryonic stem cells. Adult stem cells have been researched for a much longer period of time and some treatments have successfully been developed from them. There are a couple of major constraints on the use of adult stem cells. They have proven to be very difficult to work with, one of the main issues being they are difficult to keep alive in the lab (Clemmit 703). The second constriction to using adult stem cells is that they are not pluripotent, or are unable to “replicate indefinitely…and…differentiate into cells representative of all three germ layers” (Singer 1). Adult stem cells are clearly not as useful as are embryonic stem cells.

There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that it is unethical to purposely abort a child strictly for research purposes. However, once a child has been naturally aborted, aborted by choice of the mother due to other extraneous factors, or is simply lying in a pitri dish at a fertilization clinic, the precious tissue will otherwise go to waste. According to studies, “about 16,000 embryos are created in clinics each year, the majority of which are deemed unsuitable to transplantation in the mothers’ wombs” (Bettelheim 1067). There are estimated to be some 400,000 unused embryos in fertilization clinics, of which 8,000-10,000 will be simply discarded yearly (Clemmit 699). This waste of potentially life-saving stem cells is clearly unnecessary. At what stage of development should we consider an embryo a person with the same rights we receive? This long discussed concept is still in question today, with what seems to be no hope for consensus in sight for the near future. There are, however, some inevitable truths that we can find through research done on embryonic stem cells. Further advancing embryonic stem cell research will benefit humankind by providing crucial information on the beginning stages of life, allow scientists to watch how diseases that thousands of Americans suffer from yearly evolve and help find potential cures, and replace damaged tissues caused from unfortunate physical injuries.

Some may argue that taking the life of an embryo is murder, as that embryo should have the same rights as those of an adult. It is argued, “Embryos should be protected because they are ‘that which we all once were’” (Clemmit 701). Many anti-abortion activists fear that advances in stem cell research will cause more women to look to abortion in order to receive compensation for their fetus. This argument goes as far to say that some women may intentionally conceive to receive money, therefore causing a “multimillion-dollar fetal harvesting industry” (Jost 1). What these activists fail to see is that “there is a significant difference between an embryo suspended in liquid nitrogen that will never be implanted inside a womb, and an unborn child who is already in the womb” (Bettelheim 1071). These cells will not go through the developmental stages required to grow into a fetus. Embryos are composed of the most basic part of life, simple cells that will eventually develop into much more complex tissues. At this stage, they are a cluster of about 150 cells called a blastocyt (Clemmit 699). Scientists will be able to research these blastocyts at their most simple stage of production, before each cell begins its amazing transformation into bone, blood, hair, brain, etc tissues. Being able to research this process, scientists will be able to discover more about what occurs inside the womb during the initial stages of growth. With the amount of birth defects in children born today, this information will prove to be highly beneficial. Today, “3 out of every 100 babies born in the United States...
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