Name: Da Eun Kim
Due Date: 2010-09-29
Nowadays, we are facing the numerous advances in stem cell technology. In the
past, there is not any good way to treat damaged tissues. However, we now have stem
cell technology to overcome this problem. Stem cells have amazing potential to treat
diseases such as spinal cord injuries, Alzheimer's disease, stroke, skin burns, arthritis,
birth defects, diabetes and heart diseases. In 1998, scientists first learned how to isolate
human embryonic stem cells. They were developed for infertility purposes through in
vitro fertilization. (Fast Facts…Cell, 2010) This essay will discuss about what is stem
cell, benefits and limitations, ethical issues and political issues that are all associated
with stem cell.
Figure 1: 9-week human embryo (Uthman. 2010)
Stem cells have exceptional potential
to develop into many different cell types in the
body and they are an undifferentiated cells
that are able to differentiate into specialized
cell types such as skin, muscle, red blood,
bone, nerve…etc. Differentiation is a process
which cell of initial steps can get
characteristics of each organization. Most common example is a development of
animals. In other words, a fertilized egg needs to differentiate when different tissue cells
make it. Most common types of stem cells are embryonic stem cells and adult stem
cells. Embryonic stem cells are got from 4 or 5 day-old human embryos that are in the
blastocyst phase of development. The embryos are usually extras that have been
created in IVF (in vitro fertilization) clinics where several eggs are fertilized in a test
tube, but not in woman’s body. Adult stem cells exist throughout the body after
embryonic development and are found inside of different types of tissue.
Stem cells have several benefits by using them. First of all, stem cells can treat
burn victims, Parkinson’s disease…etc. Stem cells could make some healthy and new
tissues. Stem cells can differentiate into specialized cell types; there is possibility to give
renewable tissues of replacement cells for people whom suffering from diseases. For
example, a patient who has suffered from a heart attack and sustained the damaged
heart tissue could replace by healthy new muscle cells. (Benefit of stem…, 2010) Also,
adult stem cells can treat disease using renewable tissues that a patient’s own cells.
Risks of rejection would be quite reduced because the cells are from patients’ bodies so
their bodies would not reject their own cells. Lastly, embryonic stem cells can develop
into any cell types of the body, and more adaptable than adult stem cells but by using it,
there is an ethical problem so the research about embryonic stem cells could not make
As stem cells have lots of benefit, so they also have limitations to use it. To begin
with, adult stem cells are limited in numbers. There are only cells that can be harvested
from an individual and scientists force to make wise and sensible use of the available
quantity. Additionally, adult stem cells do not have a long storage life. They do not thrive
as much as their embryonic counterparts in laboratory cultures. Therefore it becomes
difficult to preserve these cells in cultures for longer periods of time. Finally, according
to a new research, stem cells could make heart disease patients' coronary arteries
become narrower. Scientists discovered that although participants' heart function
improved, there was an unexpectedly high rate of coronary artery narrowing.
Figure 2: Harvesting stem cells (Stem Cell Research…, 2007)
Stem cells have big ethical problem that keep
arguing constantly. There are ethical problems at
using embryonic stem cells and there are agreement
and disagreement of using embryonic stem cells.
Using embryonic stem cells, people who suffering
from various diseases such as schizophrenia,
Alzheimer’s disease, Cancer, spinal cord injuries and
diabetes could treat their diseases and have hopes
but in other hand, they assert that human embryos
have potential to create human being so it is killing
human embryos by researchers and they have no
right to take anyone’s life. Many pro-lifers and
religious groups oppose this part of stem cell
research. They declare that the ‘pre-embryo’ is a
potential human being. 3 days after it is fertilized, the
embryo is at the ‘blastocyst’ stage. These embryos are also referred to as ‘pre-
embryos’. This means, that these embryos do not have a brain, heart, lungs, internal
organs etc. They also do not possess any awareness, or senses, or thought processes.
Stem cells also have political problem. In 2001, former U.S President George W.
Bush set a limit on funding stem cell research by using government money because of
some ethical problems and ex-president were supported by a group called Moral
Majority but most of the group members are Christian fundamentalists and they believe
that life begins at conception, the blastocyst is a human life and to destroy so they didn’t
accept embryonic stem cell research and it is immoral so he vetoed stem cell research.
The veto comes just a day after the Senate had passed the bill 63-37, four votes short
of the 2/3 majorities that would have been needed to override the president’s veto.
(buzzle, 2010) But Barack Obama, now a president of U.S signed an executive order on
Monday repealing a Bush’s policy that limited federal tax dollars for embryonic stem cell
research. When he was announcing the new policy, Mr. Obama said, "so many
scientists and researchers and doctors and innovators, patients and loved ones have
hoped for and fought for these past eight years". (President Obama, 2009) In July, a
USA TODAY/Gallup Poll found that a majority, 58%, of Americans disapproved of
Bush's veto. (Stem Cell Research…, 2007)
In conclusion, development of stem cell is very useful field to research further.
Stem cell should be widely promoted by the factor of repairing damaged tissues,
reducing the risk of rejection in a patient’s body and being flexible. However, there are
ethical and political considerations that need to be solved. If these are completely
solved, we may take numerous advantages given by stem cell.
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