Benefits of Stem Cell Research

April 19, 2010
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According to Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, representative of the third district of Connecticut, “Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, brain and spinal cord disorders, diabetes, cancer, at least 58 diseases could potentially be cured through stem cell research, diseases that touch every family in America and in the world” (Brainy Quote). There is a lot of controversy about stem cell research and whether it is ethical or not. Countless people have taken a strong standpoint either for or against stem cell research, but many of these people do not really know what stem cells are and what they can do. Stem cells are unspecialized cells that renew themselves for long periods through cell division and can differentiate into specialized cells such as brain cells, nerve cells, blood cells, muscle cells, etc. In fact, a lot of people against stem cell research are unaware that there are two types of stem cells: embryo stem cells- primitive cells derived from an embryo that can give way to a wide variety of specialized cells- and adult (somatic) stem cells –undifferentiated cells found in a specific tissue that can renew themselves and give rise to any number of the specific cell types of the tissue from which they originate (“Stem Cell”). In summary, stem cell research should continue because stem cells can be used to cure cancer and neurological diseases, test new drugs, and can be grown without the use of embryos.
One way stem cells can be used is to cure disorders such as cancer, Parkinson’s disease and spinal cord injuries in several ways. Stem cells can be directed to differentiate into specific cell types such as nerve cells, muscle cells, and brain cells (“Stem Cell”). They also offer the possibility of replacement cells and tissues and have the potential to divide indefinitely and give rise to specialized cells (“Stem Cell”; National Institutes of Health). This means that the use of stem cells could be used to create new cells and injected into patients without the wait for organ donors, which are in short supply. Moreover, they are pluripotent and can be implanted to replace damaged or dying cells. For example, heart muscle cells can be transplanted into an unhealthy heart to repopulate the tissue and work with the host cells (National Institutes of Health). Hence, people with heart and cardiovascular disease would have a better chance of receiving successful and maybe even more affordable operations. Another example is that stem cells from a patient affected by leukemia can be stimulated to differentiate into white blood cells to replace the affected bone marrow once it is removed, eliminating the need for a bone marrow donor, in which matches are extremely hard to find (Panno 37).
Furthermore, stem cell therapy can be used to graft new skin for severe burn victims and to grow new corneas for the sight-impaired. This is due to the fact that scientists have discovered how to replace damaged or dead cells with younger regenerating through the manipulation and isolation of cells (Stem Cell Research Foundation). Therefore, patients with severe burn scars can be treated better and there is hope for more affordable operations for the sight-impaired. Secondly, stem cell therapies have been proven to help repair spinal injuries, help paralysis victims regain movement, and repair brain injury after strokes (Stem Cell Research Foundation). Most paralysis victims have no hope of recovering movement, but with the use of stem cell therapies, this hope may soon be realized. Lastly, stem cells can extend the human life span with tissue replenishments in aging organs (Stem Cell Research Foundation).
Second, stem cells can be used to test drugs to help prevent animal testing and make the
drug testing process more efficient. Stem cells and stem cell lines can be used to create differentiated cells to test new medications for safety. For instance, cancer cell lines are being used to screen potential anti-tumor drugs (“Stem Cell”). Thus, possible treatments for cancer and other diseases could be found and tested to increase the affordability of treatments for people afflicted by these diseases. A second example of stem cells being used to test medicine is scientists are planning on using stem cell cultures to grow livers and test the effects of drugs on them (Ja). Many of the tests on potential future treatments were cancelled because they were found to contain ingredients harmful the liver, but most did not show up in animal testing. If stem cells are used instead of animals, harmful ingredients could be found sooner and fewer animals would have to be used for testing. Finally, the availability of stem cells would mean drug testing in a wider range of cell types and stem cells can be used to detect potentially harmful compounds during early drug development so that they can be eradicated (“Stem Cell”; Ja).
An equally important fact is the use of stem cells in drug testing would reduce the number of animals used for drug testing (Ja). If adult stem cells, which do not come from embryos, are used instead of animals for testing, it could eliminate the controversy over animal testing and improve the environment. Even though all drugs are required to go through animal testing, animals do not react the same way to drugs as humans do (Ja). This means that there could be potentially harmful and dangerous ingredients in drugs that do not show up as harmful for animals, but are hazardous for humans. Tests on human cells could show harmful effects before using human trials, unlike animal testing. The goal is to use stem cells with genetic differences to test how certain drugs behave in specific genetic profiles (Ja). Overall, the use of stem cells to test drugs would greatly improve the drug testing process and make it more eco-friendly.
Thirdly, scientists are discovering new ways to grow stem cells without the use of embryos. An example of this is adult stem cells, which grow in almost every tissue of the body and can be used to treat diseases without embryos (National Institutes of Health). Somatic (adult) stem cells have just as much potential as embryo stem cells and can be extracted from a patient to eliminate the threat of immune rejection (Panno 9). As a result, stem cell therapies would be more successful and the patients would no longer have to take immuno-depressents to prevent their bodies rejecting the cells. Adult stem cells are isolated from the patient’s other cells, stimulated to differentiate into specialized cells, and transplanted back into the patient with little or no chance of rejection by the immune system (National Institutes of Health). This method is just as productive and effective as embryo stem cells. Consequently, if adult stem cells can be used as much as embryo stem cells, they may eliminate the need for them, and therefore the ethical controversy surrounding stem cell research.
Scientists have also discovered how to create human stem cells from human skin without the use of embryos or eggs. They are called “induced pluripotent stem cells” and behave like embryonic stem cells with the ability to turn into any cell type. A mouse version of iPS cells was shown by Rudolf Jaenisch, a stem cell pioneer from Cambridge Massachusetts, to cure sickle cell anemia (Healy). They still have to test this method on humans, but since the iPS cells also match the DNA of the person providing the skin, it should work just as well. If these cells can be used to treat patients with cancer, leukemia, and neurological diseases, it would greatly lessen the need for donor organs and eliminate the chance of immune rejection because they have the same DNA as the patient. In addition, these cells can be made better, cheaper, and faster from skin than from embryos (Healy). Therefore, the need for embryo stem cells could be greatly reduced and stem cell surgery would be more affordable. The use of iPS cells could be adapted to routine clinical use with gene-driven reprogramming (Healy). As a result, the use of iPS and somatic cells in surgery would be more affordable and more people would benefit from it.
In conclusion, stem cell research must continue due to the fact that the benefits outweigh the moral controversies because stem cells can be used to cure diseases such as leukemia and neurological diseases or disorders, test new drugs and medicines, and can be developed without the use of embryos. Stem cells have the ability to divide indefinitely and can develop into more specialized cells, therefore allowing for the possibility of being injected into patients with cancer, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injuries, and neurological disorders. Also, the use of stem cells and stem cell lines to test drugs and potential medications will reduce the amount of animal testing and make the drug testing process more efficient. Lastly, scientists have discovered that adult stem cells have just as much potential as embryo stem cells and can be isolated from the patient, then induced to differentiate and injected back into the patient without the use of embryos or the chance of immune rejection. All in all, stem cell research is necessary for the advancement of the medical industry and should continue because of the potential cures and remedies it offers to those afflicted with incurable diseases or disorders.





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mem15 said...
May 10, 2010 at 4:34 pm
Let us all be reminded though that stem cell reasearch is from aborted babies, unborn innocence just waiting to live when they're plugged and used for science.
 
rebelliouself5 replied...
May 10, 2010 at 8:44 pm
Umm..not to be mean or anything...but in my essay I specifically stated that they're coming up with ways NOT to use stem cells from abortions or umbilical chords
 
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