4/1/2012JUNIOR A BRIEF OVERVIEW OF STEM CELLS AND THEIRPAPER VARIOUS CONTROVERSIES Author | Trent Pierce
Pierce 1 Imagine a world where specialists can make the paraplegic walk or the blind see again.This is all possible with stem cells.Stem cells are cells with the ability to become any type of the220 different kinds of cells found in the adult human body (svoboda).They are of great interest tothe medical community because they have the potential to heal any part of the human body.Stemcells could help millions of people every year, from people who have only slight injuries topeople who are seemingly untreatable.Therefore their capabilities cannot be ignored.Manypeople in religious communities would like to stop stem cell research because they feel it isunethical.Their beliefs say that stem cell research is wrong, but stem cells are extremelyimportant to the future of medicine.It is however preferable that we find alternatives to the use ofhuman embryos for the acquisition of stem cells. Stem cell research is potentially a medical miracle, but not without costs.As of now themost affected stem cells can only be obtained from human embryos.This of course has its ownset of ethical problems and many people of the religious community are against it(controversy).A fellow student of mine points out that “Embryonic stem cells are necessary forgrowth in the stem cell research area (leposa).” When posed the question, “If you were in anaccident and became paraplegic and the only way you could be cured was with an embryonicstem cell therapy, would you agree to treatment?” she responded “Yes, but only if there werelaws in place regarding the mother’s safety and consent (leposa).”Although there are many other
Pierce 2ways to get stem cells, only embryonic stem cells are fully pluripotent.Other types of stem cellsexist such as multipotent stem cells.Multipotent means that the cell may transform into any typeof cell only in the organ group it was obtained from, pluripotent means that the cell can becomeany type of cell found in the human body.Other than embryonic stem cells,stem cells may beacquired from other sources such as umbilical cord blood, bone marrow and occasionally inorgans but in the latter two cases they are only pluripotent (svoboda).InducedPluripotency isusing chemicals or other means to turn a less effective stem cell, such as an Adult Stem Cell intoa fully pluripotent stem cell.This has the effect of removing the ethical boundary of embryosfrom the picture.There are few ways of achieving this.Another method is Somatic Cell NuclearTransfer, which is the process of squeezing the nucleus out of a human egg, a skin cell fromanother person with a live nucleus is inserted into the egg, the cell is given a small electriccharge to revive it, it is allowed to grow until it forms a small mass of cells called a blastocyst,which contains stem cells, the stem cells are then removed from the blastocyst.This process hasbeen used to produce skin, neural, striated muscle, retina, bone, intestinal, epithelial, cartilageand kidney cells (park).This process is extremely controversial because if the blastocyst was notstopped from growing it would form a human clone.This in itself is a big deal to say the leastbecause cloning is illegal and highly controversial (svoboda).When asked if she would supportSomatic Cell Nuclear Transfer Leposa responded, “I would support this more than embryonicmethods but only if it were not allowed to form a clone (leposa).”
Pierce 3 Even the government has been embroiled in the ethical controversy of stem cells.Duringhis presidency, Bush put forth an executive order that severely limited all government fundingfor any stem cell research (NIH).After the Obama administration came to office PresidentObama removed Bush’s executive order with his own (controversy). This resulted in a hugejump of almost 400 million dollars in federal funding in 2008 (NIH).Government funding andgrants are very important to the success of any high expense scientific program.The governmentpossesses funds and equipment that private investors simply cannot match.The first significantamount of money for stem cell research was in 1998 at almost $150,000,000.This steadily roseto just over $600,000,000 in the year 2005 and by 2010 it reached $1,200,000,000.Leposabelieves that “Government funding should focus on the newer ways of obtaining stem cells otherthan embryos, but should not disregard embryonic stem cells entirely (leposa).” Stem cell research could save millions of people a year if it has a significantbreakthrough. Recently a breakthrough was made with Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer method inwhich the nucleus was not squeezed out of the egg and this yielded much better response fromthe body. The only major drawback was that due to the two nuclei residing in the egg, the stemcells where not perfect copies of the patients DNA. This would mean that the patient would haveto take anti-rejection drugs for the stem cells to not be killed by the patient’s immune system(researchers). Stem cells could be used in any disease or ailment where new cells are needed.This umbrellas a huge array of disabilities, diseases and sicknesses which include full organtransplants, regrowth of an amputated limb, burn victims, and even diabetics as well as many
Pierce 4cancer patients (controversy). Experiments have even been done to grow many small livers inone’s lymph nodes to pick up the slack so to speak of a failing liver; this treatment achieved a40% increase in liver function (growing). Many governments have put laws and regulations on stem cell research. But these lawsare often hastily made and the consequences are overlooked. These regulations are often a by-product of emotion and do not reflect good judgment or thought. They are also closely tied to thereligious controversies and do not reflect scientific insight, therefore they are dogmatic andhindering the health of thousands if not millions of people. Stem cell research is very important to the future medical industry and to health ofmillions of people worldwide. As breakthroughs are announced the world clamors for the day itcan heal anything from a simple laceration to a missing leg or organ with a simple injection ofthe patients own cells. Although this may seem farfetched or a long way into the future it isapproaching faster than we think and often faster than governments and traditionalists can copewith. These people often say that these kind of researches are “unethical” and do not reflect goodmorals. As a society we must overcome these stigmas and stereotypes so a golden age ofmedicine may visit us.