The Stem Cell Research Controversy
Stem cell research is defined by eHow as “a developing technology that focuses on using undifferentiated cells therapeutically to treat human disease and injury. Stem cells are primitive or unspecialized cells that can assist in tissue repair and rejuvenation. When they divide, stem cells have the potential to become any type of cell needed, such as brain, blood or muscle cells.” Stem cells are important for many reasons but the most well-known is that they have regenerative abilities. Stem cells offer potential for treating diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease. Stem Cell Research has become a household term, and is often at center stage in political and social discussions because some people are morally conflicted regarding one method of sourcing these cells. “The stem cells may be harvested from a three to five day old embryo called a blastocyst. The cells that are present inside these embryos are called specialized cells and form the organs such as the lungs, skin, heart, sperm, eggs, and other tissues. An alternate method of harvesting stem cells is from adults. In adult tissues, such as brain, muscle, and bone marrow, distinct groups of stem cells generate replacements for cells that die off. This is a good tool for the health field because it creates a possibility for replacement organs and tissues that would normally have to be harvested from live donors. The involvement of stem cells in medicine would increase the availability of organs to help save lives. (eHow)” The population of the United States is much divided on the subject of stem cell research. The majority of the controversy surrounds the fact that, during the process of harvesting embryonic stem cells, the embryo is destroyed. Comparable to the abortion debate, some people believe that an embryo, no matter how old, is considered a human and should be given respect as well as the right to life. There is also concern that some scientists may be tempted to use cells for reproductive cloning and actually succeed in cloning a human being. The supply and source of women’s eggs for experimentation is also a topic for concern. Research using beneficial replicating requires a large number of human eggs, and there is uneasiness that some women, usually from poorer countries, may be pressured into donating their eggs for research. In the United States, many states have their own laws concerning embryonic stem cell research. According to the NCSL (National Conference of State Legislatures) website, “State laws may restrict the use of embryonic stem cells from some or all sources or specifically permit certain activities. State laws on the issue vary widely. Many states restrict research on aborted fetuses or embryos, but research is often permitted with consent of the patient. Almost half of the states also restrict the sale of fetuses or embryos. Louisiana is the only state that specifically prohibits research on in vitro fertilized (IVF) embryos. Illinois and Michigan also prohibit research on live embryos. Finally, Arkansas, Indiana, Michigan, North Dakota and South Dakota prohibit research on cloned embryos. Virginia's law also may ban research on cloned embryos, but the statute may leave room for interpretation because human being is not defined. Therefore, there may be disagreement about whether human being includes blastocysts, embryos or fetuses. California, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island have statutes that prohibit human cloning only for the purpose of initiating a pregnancy, or reproductive cloning, but allow cloning for research.” Research on stem cells continues to advance knowledge about how an organism develops from a single cell and how healthy cells replace damaged cells in adult organisms. However, considerable work remains to be done in the laboratory and the clinic to understand how to use these cells for therapies to...
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