Stem Cell Research - a Moral and Ethical Debate

Topics: Stem cell, Embryonic stem cell, Cellular differentiation Pages: 6 (2288 words) Published: December 1, 2008
Stem Cell Research:
A Moral and Ethical Debate

Stem Cell Research
A Moral and Ethical Debate
Imagine your life at the age of 32. It is as perfect as you could have ever imagined it. You are married with three beautiful children; two girls and a boy. Your oldest daughter is complaining of stumbling and clumsiness, so you take her to the doctor. You are devastated to learn that she, along with your other two children, have a neurological disorder called Batten Disease. This is a rare but always fatal disease. You are now going to have to go through what no parent ever wants to go through. You will have to watch your children wilt away like flowers. They will go blind, lose all motor skills, suffer from dementia and die a horrific, prolonged death. You will have to bury not only one, but all three of your children. This is a story of the Pinder family, whose children I went to school with. The oldest two children, both girls, are now deceased, and the youngest, a boy, is progressively getting worse. Unfortunately there is no cure for this disease on the market yet. The FDA has recently approved a clinical trial to use brain stem cells of fetal tissue to treat this disease; however the funding for stem cell research is either non-existent, or tied up in the court systems due to ethical and moral issues (Stem-Cell Funding’s). Even with the release of the funds for embryonic stem cell research, it would be too late to treat the last Pinder child. After seeing this family go through the loss of two children, and waiting in emotional turmoil for the death of their last child, I am for the study and research of embryonic stem cells. I hope that it could one day save families from the pain the Pinder’s are currently in.

Inside of an embryo that has only been fertilized for five days, are cells whose fate has yet to be determined. They are not brain cells or cells of the heart, or any of the other 220 different cells in the human body (Watson). These tiny, undetermined cells, smaller than the size of a pinhead, have been the topic of much controversy in the last few years. These cells are stem cells. They are the building blocks of the human body, and they have the ability to develop into any cell, tissue or organ in the body. A normal cell can replicate itself to replace dead or damaged cells of the same kind. For example, skin cells are constantly replicating, creating new skin cells to replace dead skin cells. This is what sets stem cells apart from normal cells. Stem cells also replicate themselves; however since they are not yet defined, they can replicate and be turned into any cell in the human body (Stem Cell Research). For this reason, stem cells can be used to treat and possibly cure many diseases such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s. There are two types of stem cells. First there are embryonic stem cells, which, as described above, are found in a human fetus which is three to five days old. The second type is adult stem cells. These are found in the heart, brain, bone marrow, lungs, and other organs of the adult human. These cells are used for repair within the body, and are known as built-in repair kits. Adult stem cells are not used for research because they are much harder for scientists to work with. They are hard to find in adult tissues and they are more difficult to reproduce in a laboratory environment (Watson). The main difference between these cells, besides their location, is the fact that adult stem cells are partway along the road to differentiation. In the body, they usually give rise to only a few related types of specialized cells (Campbell). Since no embryonic tissue is involved in the research of adult stem cells, this type of research provides an ethically less problematic route for human tissue and organ replacement. However; due to the difficulty of using adult stem cells, embryonic stem cells must be used for the research. This...

References: “Bush Vetoes Embryonic Stem-Cell Bill.” 20 July 2006. 22 July 2006
Campbell, Neil A., Jane B. Reece, Eric J. Simon. (2004) Essential
Biology (2nd ed.). San Francisco, California: Pearson Education, Inc.
“Schwarzenegger Gives $150M Stem Cell Loan.” 22 July 2006. 23 July 2006
“Scientist Hopes for Stem Cell Success.” 26 Feb. 2006. 22 July 2006.
“Stem-Cell Funding’s Private Side”. Wall Street 28 July 2006
“Stem Cells: Miracle or Mayhem?” When Stems Go Bad. 10 August 2006 Cells/Index.htm
Stem Cell Research Foundation. July 2006. Stem Cell Research Foundation. 14 July 2006
Watson, Stephanie. “How Stem Cells Work.” How Stuff Works. 24 July 2006.
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