The Ethics Surrounding Stem Cells Research Essay Example
The future of modern technology is among us and as time continues so does advancements around the world. One of the fastest growing technological advancements is right in the medical field. Scientists work around the clock researching and conducting experiments to try and advance. The research done on stem cells so far has shown to increase advancements tremendously. Stem cell research hasn’t been around as long as other methods. There is still lots to explore about stem cells. However, stem cell research has always been controversial. This type of research is important to mankind because there are many different stem cells, stem cell research is still in the beginning stages, stem cells have unique properties, and as well as stem cells have been used to treat diseases and health issues.
The most controversial type of stem cell is the embryonic stem cell. The embryonic stem cell comes from embryos that are between the ages of three and five days old. The embryonic stem cells are so young that they are called a blastocyst. They are usually created via in vitro and then are knowingly donated to research. The donors consent is a must and won’t be used without the consent. However, some studies show that embryonic stem cells are from the fertilized egg in a woman’s body, this however is untrue. Scientists have also been growing stem cells in a laboratory, this is known as cell culture. The reason laboratory stem cells isn’t more popular is due to the whole process being inefficient. The lines that are supposed to show up on the culture dish don’t always match up with how the lines should match when actual embryonic stem cells is used. This is prevented by doing lab tests that are conducted throughout the laboratory cell growth. These tests help scientists see that the cells are growing correctly or incorrectly. Embryonic stem cells have been the most researched but there are other stem cells such as adult stem cells (Stem cell). The adult stem cells are found in small numbers always in the adult tissue. One example of adult stem cells is bone marrow or fat. The adult stem cells still don’t have a lot of research done on them but adult stem cells have shown to have more ability to give rise to various of other cells in the body. The adult stem cells are important as there are a few specific types of adult stem cells. The different types of adult stem cells include hematopoietic stem cells, mesenchymal stem cells, neural stem cells, epithelial stem cells, and skin stem cells. Hematopoietic stem cells are cells that are immature and that can develop into all types of blood cells (NCI). Mesenchymal has to deal with the cells that develop into connective tissue, blood vessels, and lymphatic tissue (NCI). Neural has to do with the nervous system and the nerves and epithelial refers to the cells that line the internal and external surfaces of the body (NCI). The research done on adult stem cells that they are able to create a variety of different types of cells. Adult stem cells have also been altered to have properties that are similar to embryonic stem cells. These stem cells are called induced pluripotent stem cells or also know as iPS cells. Scientists have been able to use genetic reprogramming and transform adult stem cells into a similar form of embryonic stem cells. The iPS cells don’t have a lot of research done on them yet, but what scientists know is that by using iPS cells instead of adult stem cells it can prevent immune system rejection of the new stem cells. The last type of stem cells that is used today is perinatal stem cells. The perinatal stem cells are found in the amniotic fluid as well as the umbilical cord blood. The perinatal stem cells are able to change into a variety of specialized cells. The perinatal stem cells are the most new stem cell to be found. They were found on accident by checking the amniotic fluid for abnormalities. However, more studies will need to be done to fully understand the full potential of perinatal stem cells (Stem Frequently). The way we can use other stem cells instead of the controversial embryonic stem cells greatly improves the way we can move forward with the research and studying of them.
Stem cells have the chance to change the way we view medicine. The research surrounding stem cells is only in the beginning stages. Stem cells were first discovered in 1981 (Devitt). The stem cell research made an impact however until 1998 when the embryonic stem cells came to light (Devitt). This makes them around for quite some time but only recently has advancements been made. In 2001 stem cell research was at a high, a team in the Netherlands was able to create a beating heart using stem cells. The heart was outside the body and this is the first time that has ever been done. This study helped scientists study more diseases and the causes of them. The beating heart study opened the door for researchers to also study genetic causes (British). Stem cells are also on the way for making additional discoveries such as researchers in Glasgow are finding out. In 2016 researchers are on the fast track to converting stem cells into red blood cells and this could result in a limitless supply of clean blood that could be used for transfusions or more specifically those who lose blood by either surgery or an injury (British).
Stem cells are an amazing discovery in terms of the functions they can do and change into. Stem cells have a few unique properties that scientists have not been able to replicate. Stem cells are very special in terms of two very important characteristics. The first characteristic is that the cells are originally unspecialized. This is huge in terms of changing the cells genetic makeup into a certain specialized cell. When the stem cells are unspecialized they can renew themselves through cell division. The unspecialized cells can also occur after long periods of inactivity. The second unique characteristic is that under a certain physiological or experimental conditions the stem cells can be induced to become tissue or organ specific cells with each cell having special functions. However, all stem cells are able to divide and renew themselves for long periods, stay unspecialized which simply means they do not have to serve as a specific function or purpose, and they can give rise to a new specialized cell type. Stem cells are able to divide and renew themselves over long periods which means that they are able to replicate many times, this is also known as proliferation. For example, a beginning community of stem cells that is given the opportunity to replicate for many months can yield millions of cells. One of the biggest advancements with stem cells is that it doesn’t have any tissue-specific structures. One example would be, a regular stem cell can be specialized into a heart muscle cell, a nerve cell, or even a blood cell. Lastly, a stem cell can become a specialized cell. The process that a cell goes through to go from being unspecialized into specialized is called differentiation. During the differentiation process the cell will start to understand different signals that will occur inside the cell as well as outside the cell. The different signals will help the stem cell complete the differentiation process (Stem cell). Scientists have shown that so far scientists have not seen many other processes like what stem cells can do.
Stem cells have provided an opening to discovering new cures and treatments for diseases and serve as other health functions. Stem cells have been used successfully to replace diseased cells in the human body. This new system is called regenerative medicine. The process works by guiding the stem cells into becoming regenerative which will allow the stem cells to be able to repair and replace the diseased or damage tissues in the human body. One example shows that those with spinal cord injuries, type 1 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, stroke, burns, cancer, and osteoarthritis would be given a stem cell therapy that could greatly benefit these illnesses, diseases, and unfortunate events. Stem cells could also be used to repair damage after a heart attack occurred. The properties of stem cells allows for the potential to be used in regenerative medicine that has the potential to become a number of different tissues. Stem cells have also been used to test new drugs for their effectiveness and side effects. When patients are taking a new investigational drug, the patients can use certain stem cells to test for the safety and quality of this new drug. One example could be stem cells that are regenerated into nerve cells, could be used to test a new drug for nerve disease (Stem Frequently). Recently, a news story published by ABC News had described a breakthrough involving multiple sclerosis and stem cells. The study took place in Australia and followed a mom that has multiple sclerosis. She went through treatment where chemotherapy had wiped out her immune system but then her own stem cells were inserted back into her body and eventually rebuilt her body. After three years of treatment she and the other patients that participated were ninety percent relapse free (Scott).
However, there are many opposing arguments to stem cells and the research that surrounds them. The patient that decides to go through a stem cell transplant must do conditioning before the stem cell transplant can occur. The conditioning could include chemotherapy as well as radiation (Lo). There are also many different side effects that can occur because of conditioning. Once the conditioning is done you will receive the stem cell transfusion which also comes with a wide array of side effects that can occur while the transfusion is taking place. The side effects can occur during the transfusion as well as up to one hour after the transfusion has taken place. Once the stem cells are in the next stage is called engraftment. Engraftment is the stage where the newly transfused cells start to make the new blood components your body needs. The engraftment also comes with lots of side effects that include trouble sleeping as well as a possibility of skin rashes. The side effects that accompany the engraftment phase can occur for a long period of time. Once the transplant has been successfully done the side effects with the transplant most common side effects are fatigue, lack of appetite, and vomiting. The patients that have the transplant done suffer with side effects even after the transplant has been done (What). This however is not the only reason some might oppose stem cells. The method of removing stem cells is very controversial as some could say that scientists are destroying an embryo just for research. The current embryonic harvesting method requires the death of an embryo. Currently, research is being done to find additional ways to harvest embryonic stem cells but as of current technology the death of an embryo is the only way (Stem Cell). It is also stated that embryonic stem cells have a high rejection rate which means that stem cell therapies have high rejection rates and create a lot of future health issues. Tumors have also been encouraged when stem cell therapy is around (Stem Harvard). The cost of stem cell treatment is extraordinarily high. The United States has a cost of about ten thousand dollars for a treatment (Knoepfler). The challenges that go with cell growth are still a long way from being in control (Stem Cell). When a stem cell is grown in vitro the embryonic stem cells are able to replicate indefinitely (Stem Cell). There has also been research done to show that embryonic stem cells and embryonic carcinoma cells have a very close relationship to tumors that lead to cancer (Stem Cell). In 2007, Dr. James Thomson from the University of Wisconsin led the first breakthrough with the stem cell known as induced pluripotent stem cell or also known as iPS was successful as first until Dr. Thomson was not fully in control of the idea of the stem cells being completely pluripotent (Stem Cell). If a cell was not completely pluripotent then it would not be able to regenerate into a different cell type. For example, if a cell was not completely pluripotent then if it was regenerated into a heart muscle cell then it would not be able to reach the full potential verse if it was fully pluripotent.
Stem cell research is important to mankind because there are many different stem cells, stem cell research is still in the beginning stages, stem cells have unique properties, and as well as stem cells have been used to treat diseases and health issues. Studies have shown that stem cells are changing the way that we look at different diseases but also new treatment plans that can change peoples lives. Stem cells are vital to the future of medicine and by doing more research it could open up a world of new possibilities. The debate that surrounds the ethics of stem cells is deep and undeniably could affect any of us someday. The benefits that have already been discovered as well as what the future could bring with more research is astounding. The ability that stem cells research could have could be able to provide treatment for the diseases and illnesses that we today, describe as incurable. If researchers and scientists have the opportunity to lead the world to a future where diseases could be cured with a stem cell treatment, then we need to continue researching the topic as well as dig deeper into the world of stem cells. Stem cells could be the beginning to a new world where we don’t have to worry about the diseases today that are labeled as incurable.
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