The folllowing sample essay on Advantages Of Embryonic Stem Cells discusses it in detail, offering basic facts and pros and cons associated with it. To read the essay’s introduction, body and conclusion, scroll down.
One of the most controversial debates in recent history has been the human embryonic stem cell debate. Millions and millions of embryos are not used each year when they could very well lead to a cure for fatal diseases such as leukemia and cancer. As well as become a cure for neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
Human embryonic stem cell research has enormous potential to cure many diseases and change the face of modern medicine.
However, there is much debate against the use of embryos because many people believe that an embryo should be treated as a human being because they have the potential to become human beings. Background information on the research of embryonic stem cells is important to know before developing an opinion.
“All cells come from cells” (Holland et al. 4). There are three different types of stem cells: totipotent, pluripotent, and specific stem cells. All of them have the capacity to grow, reproduce and produce specific body cells or tissues.
Totipotent stem cells are totally potent and are capable of forming any kind of body cell. An individual totipotent cell has the potential to become a human being.
All cells are totipotent during the early stages of an embryo (Peters). Pluripotent or multipotent stem cells are not totally potent therefore they cannot develop into a human being. Pluripotent stem cells can develop into the three major tissue types: endoderm, mesoderm, and ectoderm (Pinon 501). Tissue specific cells are what they are, specific stem cells. They develop into specific cells.
For example, skin stem cells produce only skin cells, blood stem cells produce only blood cells and so on (Holland et al. 5). Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) come from an early stage embryo. Fetal stem cells are cells within the fetus that cultivate into various organs (Stem Cell 13) and adult stem cells are within a specific tissue such as the brain or bone marrow. Adult stem cells have the potential to replicate themselves and become specialized to other types of tissue (Stem Cell 13). Of all the stem cell and embryo research that has been conducted, the most important discoveries about stem cells have been discovered in recent years.
In 1999, the journal “Science” declared stem cell research to be the breakthrough of the year, largely in part to the research performed by Dr. James Thomson and Dr. John Gearhart (“Breakthroughs” 1999 2-3). In 1998, Dr. James Thomson, an associate veterinarian in the University of Wisconsin Regional Primate Research Center, led a research team that was the first to isolate human embryonic stem cells. Thomson and his team started with a fertilized ova, embryos from in vitro fertilization, not placed in a uterus and cultured them for about four to six days.
In doing this, they created a line of embryonic stem cells. Another important discovery also came in 1998, from John Hopkins University School of Medicine where Dr. John Gearhart, a professor of gynecology and obstetrics, led a research team that successfully drew human embryonic germ cells from fetal tissue. These cells are exactly like pluripotent (not totally potent and cannot develop into a human being) stem cells. Cloning has strong ties to stem cell research because both involve the use embryos. In 1997, Ian Wilmut cloned a sheep named Dolly.
Wilmut has never tried to clone a human and he is still against the idea. Dolly was actually not the first animal cloned. During the 1960s, frogs were reported to be successfully cloned. But this did not attract the interest of politicians or the public. The Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, Scotland, the same institute that cloned Dolly, had actually cloned sheep before. In 1995, two lambs, Megan and Morag were cloned. However, these 1995 clonings also did not attract much interest. The main reason that Dolly was so popular is that Dolly was cloned from an adult sheep that was already dead (Pinon 499).
During cloning, nuclear transfer procedure takes place (Pinon 499). An egg is received from a donor female by simulating ovulation. The egg’s nucleus is removed and a nucleus from the organism to be cloned is placed in the egg. Finally, the new egg is placed in the uterus of the mother. The result does not come from sexual reproduction, however cloning does still need an egg and a uterus. Cloning of humans should never take place because of moral and ethical implications. However, using human embryos for stem cells will help millions of people worldwide who suffer from devastating diseases and disorders.
Over 100 million Americans suffer from diseases that can be treated by stem cell therapy. Some of these diseases include: heart disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and diabetes. Many of them are fatal. Many of these diseases have little or no treatment; therefore millions of Americans are desperately looking for cures. Stem cells could revolutionize modern medicine because of its advantages. Patients that have had a stroke or damage to their spine could receive stem cell therapy that would restore their central nervous system.
Congestive heart failure affects almost five million people in the United States with 400,000 more diagnosed each year. About 1. 5 million people are affected by myocardial infarction, which is the number one cause of heart muscle damage, and nearly one-third die (Holland et al. 8). Research has shown that while traditional drug therapy is effective for some patients, stem cell therapy could dramatically reduce the number of deaths contributed to heart disease each year (Holland et al. 8). Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia that affects memory and everyday thinking functions usually among older people.
It affects the brain areas that control thought, memory and language and is caused by a loss of nerve cells within the brain (A. D. E. A. R). Parkinson’s disease is a motor system disorder that is caused by the loss of dopamine producing cells within the brain. Dopamine, a chemical messenger, transmits signals throughout the brain. Without dopamine, nerve cells in the brain degenerate leaving patients with less control of their movements than normal. Severe trembling of hands, arms, legs, jaw, and face are the most significant symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (Parkinson’s Information).
People with Parkinson’s disease have difficulty talking, walking, and even completing simple everyday activities (Parkinson’s Information). Alzheimer’s affects over four million people and Parkinson’s affects one million. Each year, 500,000 Americans will suffer a stroke. (Holland et al. 8). Using neural cells (nervous system cells) produced from stem cells can treat spinal cord injuries, stroke, and even Alzheimer’s disease and drastically reduce the suffering of these millions of Americans. Stem cells also shows promising results for people with hearing loss.
Inner ear hair cells have been created from mouse embryonic stem cells at Harvard Medical School. Inner ear hair cells are microscopic hairs that stimulate hearing. Nearly 80 percent of all hearing losses are caused by damage to these inner ear hair cells. This research could lead to a cure for hearing loss (Quick 1A). Heart tissue or organs such as the liver could be grown in a laboratory. These organs could be used for transplants. It is important to remember that not all stem cells can come from a human embryo. There are some alternatives to embryonic stem cells. The most significant alternative n recent years has been the discovery of stem cells in a child’s umbilical cord. Usually, the umbilical cords have been discarded but now there are many organizations that will freeze the blood within the cord. Within umbilical cord blood are stem cells that could be used later in life to cure diseases such as dementia and leukemia. However, umbilical cord stem cell research is still a work in progress. Juan Sanchez-Ramos, University of South Florida, believes that only one umbilical cord blood stem cell out of a million will be able to regenerate nerve-like cells.
The use of embryonic stem cells is a very controversial topic mostly because of ethic, moral and religious arguments. On the day that the cloning of Dolly was announced, President Clinton requested that the National Bioethics Advisory Commission “undertake a thorough review of the legal and ethical issues associated with the use of this technology” (Pinon 507). Many questions arise from research with embryos like stem cells and cloning. Can we play God? Is it ethical? Is it fair to let a person suffer when stem cells can present cure? Is it morally correct to deprive an embryo of its potential for life?
These questions bring about much controversy and debate regarding human embryonic stem cells. The most common protest to embryonic stem cell research is that embryos will not fulfill their potential of becoming a human being. This brings about the question of: at what point does life start? Many people believe that human life begins at conception and that we have a moral obligation to preserve human life beginning at conception. There are many religious views on this issue. According to Jewish tradition, it is not until after 40 days of implantation that an embryo has moral status.
A child is considered to be a part of its mother’s body until it is born. Only once the child is born is it then considered to be living its own life (Stem Cell 44). For centuries, the Roman Catholic Church deemed that life began 40 days after conception, a view adopted by Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas (Stem Cell 44). Today, the Catholic Church views life to begin at conception, the earliest possible time, and that human life must be protected starting at that point. Protestants accept embryonic stem cell research, however they oppose all other research using embryos.
In 1999, the National Bioethics Advisory Commission regard the research of human embryonic stem cells as acceptable as long as it is “conducted reasonably and ethically” (Stem Cell 44). It is critical that scientists, government officials, and ethicists all agree on the appropriate definition of reasonably and ethically and establish common ground before the promising research of embryonic stem cells is actually used on humans. Government funding for embryonic stem cell research has also been a hot topic. On August 9, 2001, President George W. Bush gave permission for federal funds to be used only for research using about 60 stem cell lines.
These 60 stem cell lines were approved by the National Institutes of Health. There currently are no laws prohibiting the private sector to produce stem cells, however there is some legislation in the works (Stem Cell 46). The President’s decision to limit federal funding to stem cell research draws controversy from both religious leaders and scientists. Scientists say the limited funds will setback research whereas religious leaders complained that the President broke a campaign promise (“Stemming Research” 6A). Embryonic stem cells present a very realistic cure for numerous diseases and can reduce the suffering of millions of people.
Stem cell research should continue because of its promising potential to rid the world of horrific diseases like cancer. Scientists and ethicists should all agree on the correct vocabulary defining what is ethical and at what point does life really begin before human beings are included in stem cell research. Cloning, whereas is similar to stem cells because it involves the use of embryos should not be used because of moral obligations to preserve human life. The medical breakthrough of stem cells should be used to our advantage.