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Stem Cell Research

Stem cell research is a highly controversial topic. The main controversy about this is that it would take years of time and money to scientifically discover the abilities of stem cells. It would also take the destruction of human cells, including embryonic cells, to research and test on. On the contrary, with stem cell research, there could be safer alternative solutions for organ transplants and drug testing. Stem cell research should be legalized because stem cells have the ability to transform into any cell of the body and could turn into replacement tissues to treat a number of weakening conditions and save lives.
During the early stages of growth, stem cells have the potential to develop into many different types of cells and tissues in the body. “If researchers could harness these flexible cells, they might create replacement tissues to treat diabetes, spinal cord injury, and other debilitating conditions” (Chang). Stem cells can be derived from embryonic, non-embryonic, human, and animal cells. Two defining characteristics of stem cells are: 1) they are unspecialized cells that are able to renew themselves through cell division and 2) under certain conditions, they can become tissue or organ specific cells. Due to their ability to become specialized cells, “stem cells serve as a sort of ‘internal repair system’, essentially replenishing other cells as long as the person/animal is alive” in most tissues (Stem Cell Information).
Scientists are already using stem cells to test new drugs and develop model systems to study normal growth and identify the causes of birth defects. Donated organs and tissues are often used to replace ailing or destroyed tissue, but the need for transplantable tissues and organs far outweigh the available supply (Stem Cell Information). With the use of stem cells, it offers the possibility of a renewable source of replacement cells and tissues for Alzheimer’s, spinal cord injury, stroke, burns, heart disease, diabetes, and more.
Human embryonic stem cells were created for reproductive reasons through in vitro fertilization. The scientists discovered ways to obtain these embryonic stem cells by studying early mouse embryos in 1981. After elaborate studies of the biology of mouse stem cells, a method to derive stem cells from human embryos and grow them in a laboratory was developed in 1998 (Stem Cell Information).

Human embryonic stem cells are isolated from human embryos that are a few days old. They have been developed from fetal tissue, which is older than eight weeks after conception. Alicia Chang says, “For all the medical promise that embryonic stem cells hold, the payoff will take years. Their use has been debated because human embryos from fertility clinic leftovers have to be destroyed to harvest the cells.” The embryos are usually extras that have been created in in vitro fertilization clinics where several eggs are fertilized in a test tube, but only one is implanted into a woman. In 1998, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison extracted the first human embryonic stem cells that were able to be kept alive in a laboratory. The main controversy of this research is that it required the destruction of a human blastocyst. This is seen as not giving the fertilized egg a chance to develop into a full human (MediLexicon Ltd.).

Stem cells are known to potentially help treat diseases, but there have been no new cures yet. People have been directing money to projects with the most promise of near-term results for years with no results. “Most of the money early on was funneled toward learning the basics and recruiting scientists” (Chang).

“New findings from a transplant study led by the scientists and the Diabetes Research Institute (DRI) at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and the DRI Federal Center at the Xiamen University in China showed that mesenchymal stem cells may replace a powerful anti-rejection drug in transplant recipients.” Patients undergoing a transplant usually receive immunosuppressive therapy to block the body’s immune system from rejecting the donor organ/tissues. “The immunosuppressive therapy drugs have [been] shown to improve graft function and minimize rejection episodes, but they increase the risks of dangerous side effect,” such as infections and organ toxicity (Newspaper Source Plus). Scientists have been searching for safer methods for preventing transplant rejection and have turned to naturally-occurring cells in the body that have immune-modulatory properties (such as mesenchymal stem cells). After a one-year post-transplant, the results of the study indicated that among the patients undergoing a kidney transplant, the use of MSCs compared with the standard immunosuppressive therapy resulted in lower incidence of acute organ rejection, decreased risk of infection and better kidney function (Newspaper Source Plus).

Prop 71 was a law that was going to be passed. It would allow the “California Institute for Regenerative Medicine to conduct stem cell research and provide funding, through grants and loans, for such research and research facilities” (SmartVoter). It would prohibit, though, the Institute’s funding of human reproductive cloning research. The good thing about this law is that it “authorizes stem cell research to find new cures for cancer, heart disease, diabetes, save millions of lives, and cut health care costs by billions” (SmartVoter). Saying yes to this “would establish a new state medical research institute and authorize the insurance of $3 billion in state general obligation bonds to provide funding for stem cell research and research facilities in California”. The bad thing about this law is that “funding for stem cell research in California would depend on actions by the legislature, governor, and other entities which provide research funding”. Yet, saying yes to this “adds $3 billion bond debt to California’s massive debt load. Money would fund huge, new bureaucracy to promote human embryo cloning.” There would be few controls and no real accountability for how money is spent.

After all the cons about stem cell research, isn’t saving lives the better answer? With stem cell research, science could be so much more advanced. If scientists didn’t take risks, there would be no vaccines or cures. Stem cells have the ability to become specialized cells, tissues, and organs that could potentially be a safer option than transplant operations. Researching stem cells could lead to new treatments and cures. It could help save lives.

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windswift This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 28, 2014 at 3:24 am
Very well researched, and great job accounting pros and cons, essential for papers regarding contraversial topics.  One aspect of this piece could be improved, your wording needs revising, for example, instead of "The main controversy about this is that"  you should say " The main controversy is that".  This reduces excessive words, cleaning up overall appearance.  I would  suggest a wider variety of words, you began with two... (more »)
PlainJaneThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. replied...
Jan. 28, 2014 at 2:26 pm
Thank you for your constructive criticism.
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