project21102 - Stem Cell Research


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project21102 - Stem Cell Research

  1. 1. Snyder 1 Brittany Snyder U03810313 ENC 1102 Mrs. Upshaw March 12th, 2009 Stem Cell Research Researcher Douglas Melton utters the words, “I decided I was not just going to sit around. I decided I was going to do something”(Park 38). Melton, Co-Director at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, said this to Alice Park in the article, How the Coming Revolution in Stem Cells Could Save Your life, which discussed his response to the news that his six-month-old child was diagnosed with Type I diabetes (Park 38). Few parents have been able to say this line and then follow it up; Douglas Melton, however, is among that small percentage. His research with stem cells began with the initial aim to create insulin-producing cells in order to cure all those individuals, including his son, suffering with Type I diabetes; now, it is thought that the capability to produce these cells will exceed expectations and, in fact, cure other diseases as well (Park 38). Stem cell research has been a highly controversial topic due to the use of embryonic stem cells. However, funding needs to be provided to continue such study, for a strict set of moral and ethical guidelines are followed at all times by researchers during procedures. This is not the first time that medical advancements have been opposed, yet people are still provided with the necessary medical procedures such as the once controversial blood transfusions they
  2. 2. Snyder 2 require. Plus, current advanced breakthroughs in medicine have the potential to eliminate the use of embryonic stem cells altogether. With the controversy eliminated, there is no reason that funding should be prohibited. The age-old question revolving around the issue of stem cell research and the use of embryos is that of who are we to decide, and how do we decide, when a cellular mass is considered a person. Determining at which point exactly in the developmental process something is considered a living individual is a large portion of objection felt with stem cell research. According to Breda O’Brien, author of the article, Spinning Round the Stem Cell Research Issue, if the argument for stem cells is that the embryos are just “a blob of cells,” and therefore do not have their own degree of consciousness, could a rebuttal be that every living person is in fact made up of cells, and thus, “a blob of cells?”(O’Brien). If so, where is the cut-off date when this blob’s existence is no longer in the hands of another? The argument all comes down to morals. In a debate on this very topic, Melton asked if “a day-old embryo and a 6-year-old [were] moral equivalents,” to which the response from the representative against stem cell research was, “yes.” Melton, however, fired back with the question of “why society accepts the freezing of embryos but not the freezing of 6-year-olds,” to which there was no response (Park 41). This idea presents the fact that those in opposition to stem cell research turn a blind eye when it comes to the freezing of embryos even though the same argument against stem cells could be used against the same idea. Sean Morrison, Director of the University of Michigan Center for Stem Cell Biology, pointedly explains in his medical film clip that obviously, with such controversy in the public’s eye, research with stem cells that takes place does so under a strict code of
  3. 3. Snyder 3 guidelines (Morrison, Sean). The topic has been intensely studied by the National Academy of Sciences with the goal of a means to go about stem cell research in an ethically and morally correct way (Morrison, Sean). In addition to this code of guidelines set out by the National Academy, the March CNN news article informs the public that President Obama recently passed the policy on stem cell research and is currently composing another set of ethical rules to be abided by (Obama). An important aspect to consider when determining whether stem cell research should be permitted is that of several other procedures that can be considered questionable for the same reasons; for instance, blood transfusions and organ transplants (Morrison, Sean). These medical cures are entirely optional for patients and researchers alike; the same concept should be applied to that of the use of stem cells. Morrison, the Director of the University of Michigan Center for Stem Cell Biology, rebuts opposition to stem cell research, declaring “the fact that there are subsets of people in our society who believe that those life-giving medical treatments are immoral doesn’t make us prohibit the patients who need those treatments from receiving them. Rather what we do is we ensure that research goes forward in an ethical manner . . .” (Morrison, Sean). If stem cell procedures go in accordance with the guidelines that have been put forth by the National Academy of Sciences, both sides of the stem cell controversy should be pacified. Another perspective to consider in this controversy is the thousands of embryonic cells that are discarded in fertility clinics nationwide (Morrison, Sean. “Five”). These cells have been thrown away for any number of reasons preventing the effective fertility of those being impregnated (Morrison, Sean. “Five”). According to O’Brien, those “blob[s] of cells” are being wasted (O’Brien). If these embryonic cells cannot be used for
  4. 4. Snyder 4 their intended purpose, they should definitely be put to good use. They can still be used for the intention of stem cells; as a result they will advance medicine and put thousands of people out of suffering. As President Obama emphasizes, “As a person of faith, I believe we are called to care for each other and work to ease human suffering. I believe we have been given the capacity and will to pursue this research – and the humanity and conscience to do so responsibly.” Thus, research is currently taking place in an ethical manner due to the fact that scientists are not creating embryos for the purpose of medical use, but are instead using ones that would otherwise be discarded completely. Luckily, these days so many advances in technology and medicine have been made that scientists are no longer entirely reliant upon embryos for stem cells. In June of 2006, Scientist Shinya Yamanaka discovered that by taking the skin cells of a mouse and mixing them with the proper genetics he was able to erase the entire cell’s memory (Park 42). This means, in theory, that the cell can be programmed to become any body part that a patient requires (Park 42). Years after this discovery was made, Yamanaka’s work was followed up with great success and thus came about induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells (Park 43). Because of this research discovery, embryonic stem cells have become merely the “gold standard,” against which iPS cells must be compared to, according to Dr. Doug Engel of the University of Michigan Medical Hospital; they still need to be studied, however, in order to ensure that the iPS cells are functioning in the same way (Engel). This standard is important to have because for iPS cells to be equally effective, they need to work in the same way as embryonic stem cells do. Once any problems are worked out, the use of embryonic stem cells will cease to be necessary.
  5. 5. Snyder 5 With iPS cells, the creation of an embryo is entirely bypassed, and thus there should be no more controversy (Park 43). With this evidence being widely spread around the world, less and less is being written against the idea of stem cell research. During my own research process, even, I was not able to find information about opposing arguments to research on stem cells until I looked at works written over ten years ago. Such works just do not seem as pertinent now that iPS cells have been discovered. As a result, diseases such as Type I diabetes and Parkinson’s can actually be observed in their developing. This will lead to a better understanding of the disease itself, and thus, hopefully, a cure (Park 43). With the stem cell controversy waning, why prevent research being done with the initiative to cure those in need if the advancements are taking place in a moral and ethically correct manner? Specific guidelines have been set and are followed at all times by stem cell researchers to guarantee that research is indeed carried out this way. President Obama, having recently lifted the prohibition on stem cell research, has even updated these rules to ensure nothing that could be considered unethical will occur (Obama). Medical procedures, including the use of stem cells and organ transplants, that research has made possible is not a required decision, and thus should not be denied to those who opt to be treated this way. On top of this information, the introduction of iPS cells that could eventually be used in place of embryonic stem cells will cause controversy to subside even further.
  6. 6. Snyder 6 Annotated Bibliography Engel, Dr. Doug. Stem Cell Research: The Road to Cures. UM Film Clip. 25 Feb. 2009 <> The clip, “Stem Cell Research: The Road to Cures,” is a video of Dr. Doug Engel talking about the facts on iPS cells. He brings in the idea of “the golden standard” of embryonic stem cells, and explains that that is why embryonic cells must still be used. He says how eventually iPS cells may be able to cure diseases, but they are still be researched. This information is used to bring in the idea that soon we will not be entirely reliant upon embryonic stem cells, and thus there will be even less controversy. Morrison, Sean. Five Things You Should Know About Stem Cell Research. UM Film Clip. 25 Feb. 2009 <> The clip, “Five Things You Should Know About Stem Cell Research,” is a video of Sean Morrison, the Director of the University of Michigan Center for Stem Cell Biology, states the facts about why embryonic stem cells are used. He explains that because the cells are taken at such an early developmental stage, they have the capability to grow into whatever researchers want. He also brings in the idea of using the discarded embryos from fertility clinics, which is the information that was used in my paper, to show that these could be put to good use. “Obama Overturns Bush Policy On Stem Cells.” 9 Mar. 2009. 10 Mar. 2009. < l?iref=newssearch>
  7. 7. Snyder 7 This article from the CNN news website, brings the public’s attention to the fact that Obama has overturned Bush’s policy on stem cell research. Obama states that he thinks that research should be funded by taxes in order to end human suffering, as long as it is done in a moral and ethically correct manner. Quotes and this information is used in my paper to show how the process is definitely done morally. O’Brien, Breda. “Spinnin Round the Stem-Cell Research Issue.” Time Magazine. 9, Feb. 2009:38-43. The article by Breda O’Brien talks about the politics surrounding stem cell research. She goes on to say how the difficulty lies in determining exactly when a cluster of cells is considered to have traits of a person. Quotes are brought in to support her claim that there really isn’t an accurate time that these cells become a person other than conception. This article ties in other experts’ ideas on the matter, and aid in my argument by supporting the fact there definitely is a difference between a mass of cells just developing and a baby on its way. Park, Alice. “How the Coming Revolution in Stem Cells Could Save Your Life.” 29 Nov. 2003. Lexis Nexis. University of South Florida Library, Tampa. 25 Feb. 2009. <>Path: Stem Cell Research; “Spinning Round The Stem-Cell Research Issue.” The article by Alice Park goes over how important stem cell research is, its benefits, as well as the introduction of iPS cells. It starts with the story of researcher
  8. 8. Snyder 8 Douglas Melton who began such research in order to cure his son of Type I diabetes. This information helped explain stem cells, was the main source in proving my claims for stem cell research, and served as the emotional hook at the beginning of the paper, itself. Morrison, Sean. Embryonic Stem Cell Research: Ethics and Morality. UM Video Clip. 25 Feb. 2009 The clip, “Embryonic Stem Cell Research: Ethics and Morality,” is a video of Sean Morrison explaining how even though some people view the use of embryonic stem cells as unethical and immoral, an actual set of guidelines are followed to ensure that all progress is achieved in an ethical and moral way. He also states that just because a few people disagree with the idea, we should not prohibit others from being able to choose to use stem cells as treatment; blood transfusions, for example, are made optional as well and some people are against them, too. This information helps support my stance pro stem cell research.