Should There be Limits Placed on Embryonic Stem Cell Research
With so many varied opinions regarding stem cell research ??“ especially embryonic stem cell research ??“ this topic can become extremely heated. I believe that so many misconceptions about the topic of embryonic stem cell research cause deceptive thinking and calloused judgments when only using very small pieces of information. Because of its nature, limitations are definitely a necessity; but where do we draw the line In the next few paragraphs, I hope to uncover the pros and cons of embryonic stem cell research, and open the doors to both faith-based and secular ideas on the topic.
Stem cell research has come a long way from its humble beginnings in the mid-19th century. Early on, past researchers discovered that some cells could generate other cells; but this is where the knowledge ended. Today, researches know what it takes to save a life, and even cross the line at times ??“ in the mind of some ??“ in order to clone and create new beings. During the 20th century, researchers explored new territory, administering adult stem cells to patients with leukemia or anemia. The ability for stem cells to repair damaged organs caused great excitement and growth in this field of study; curiosity for testing new parts quickly followed.
It wasn??™t until the late 1990s that embryonic stem cell research became a hot topic; most research at this time was completed using cells from in vitro fertilization; it was at this time that ethical concerns arose. Excitement grew as researchers quickly discovered that embryonic stem cells grow extremely fast. Careful observation and conscientious scrutiny are absolutely necessary for each cell in order to differentiate them into specialized cells. Without this expert scrutiny, remaining embryonic cells can grow out of control, and form unwanted tumors. The question still hangs, ???Where does human dignity begin and end??? Many believe embryonic stem cell research to be unregulated ??“ to an extent; but the government is quite educated on the practice, and even strictly enforces rules when it comes to federal funding. Our government even requires voluntary donor consent before such research can be done.
Important for all living organisms, stem cells have unique regenerative abilities with the potential to treat many diseases. They seem to know inherently how and when to travel to diseased or injured tissue cells and that replacement cells are necessary. Embryonic stem cells ??“ unlike other non-embryonic stem cell ??“ can reproduce at a staggering rate, for a year or more. Most embryonic stem cells come from embryos that have been developed in-vitro. Early on, embryonic stem cells can follow one of three pathways. Stem cells generated in a lab are known as cell culture. Researchers working with these conditions are focused first on generating new stem cells to use in therapeutic situations and/or for those with serious disease. Serious degenerative diseases like Parkinson??™s or Alzheimer??™s could possibly be stopped, not just controlled as with today??™s most perfected treatments. Under some conditions, blood stem cells created in a lab lack some functionality as cells fond in bone marrow or the umbilical cord blood. Results involve an immune system that does not function optimally.
There is a lot of support in many countries, including the UK, Japan, and South Korea, to continue embryonic stem cell research and push forward toward cloning. Here in the United States, restrictions of certain types of research, namely cloning, are scrutinized. Funding, in most cases however, is allowed for the research and potential gains for tissue regeneration. With this allowance, we gain banks of tissue to repair and/or restore vital organs, body parts, or even nervous system functions. Some limitations hinder advancement, as cells are pre-specialized, and only regenerate to their likeness. Significantly more study needs to be done on rejection rates when cells are not the patient??™s own, to include the long-term effects.
Government restrictions in the United States complicate matters and often hinder further research. At one time, there was a law that would not allow the use of taxpayer dollars when work in stem cell research harmed an embryo; private money was required to control the size of cell batches in these cases. Those batches have the ability to reproduce in lab dishes indefinitely. In 2009, President Barack Obama signed an executive order repealing President Bush??™s policy limiting federal funding for human stem cell research; this authorized the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to proceed with and studies and would allow funds to continue. The Obama administration overruled all laws, thus permitting taxpayer dollars to be used. In 2010, a U.S. district judge approved an order to stop funding by federal entities for embryonic stem cell research because of its destruction to embryos; stating it violated the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, which ???prohibits the use of federal funds for all research in which a human embryo is destroyed???. This judge??™s ruling went against what Congress wanted, and was a ???step backwards??? for Obama??™s administration, which all too recently issued guidelines to allow federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. To complicate things, this ruling involved a lawsuit against the National Health Institute. It was filed by researchers who were opposed to using embryonic stem cells; this group seeks those wishing to adopt the human embryos created through in vitro fertilization. Currently, the ruling stops federal funding of embryonic stem cell research while the lawsuit proceeds through the legal system. In the end, there is a mixed bag of opinions regarding this ruling. Those in favor of embryonic stem cell research praised the executive order while those opposed, objected to the executive order, claiming that the use of these human embryos destroys and ends human life. The destruction of embryos during research fires off great controversy; yet the creation of human embryos stirs a heated argument as well. The pros and cons are insurmountable, but who makes the decisions as to what research is allowed or not. The benefits for study of developmental stages could possibly cure major birth defects or infertility. So the question remains, ???what should be done with embryos (blastocysts) once a couple has conceived or given up??? Today, donors own the rights to all of their frozen embryos, and no one can tell them what they must do with them.
According to religious bodies, research of embryonic stem cells means the destruction of an embryo, meaning the destruction of potential human life. Many religions believe life begins at conception; some believe full human status does not begin before forty days. Moral ideals sometimes seem to be viewed in only black or white. But in today??™s world, should we consider looking at the greater good instead of right or wrong New medical treatments or research could lead to the discovery of new medicine or cure for a currently incurable disease. Isn??™t this the greater good Some may say, ???If abortions are going to go on whether we agree with them or not, shouldn??™t we consider using the embryonic stem cells for the greater good??? Human rights activists would counter argue that when an embryo is taken early, the progression of becoming a human being is essentially stopped. They believe that upon fertilization, an ovum is now human.
Even with all the debate and scrutiny, successful medical miracles abound. Take little Chloe Levine for example; she was thought to be healthy at birth. At only one year old, Chloe was paralyzed on the right side of her body and was showing many difficulties in speech. It wasn??™t long before her parents soon discovered she had cerebral palsy. With her stored umbilical cord blood, doctors were able to start treatment using the stem cells from this blood to treat her condition. Soon after doctors infused the stem cells, healing began. Chloe was able to perform tasks she was unable to do before, and even gained use of her right hand. Older now, Chloe has started school ??“ not lagging behind ??“ but with children her own age. These doctors continue their clinical trials so that others with brain injuries may know the same success story as Chloe and her parents. Because of the moral and ethical differences of opinions, scientists are researching new ways to ???create??? stem cells. In fact, scientists have been able to reprogram adult stem cells in mice into embryonic stem cells, offering the same embryonic stem cell properties that are needed for potentially limitless sources for engineering tissue and the creation of transplantation medicine. If this research is successful, live human skin cells could be reprogrammed in the same way, giving us opportunity to create countless cells for hundreds of diseases.
Whichever side of the debate you may ??“ or may not ??“ agree with, I think we all concur that when leaving the moral and/or ethical issue out of the equation, great strides can be made toward healthier, brighter tomorrows. Should there be limitations Absolutely. No one should ever be paid for donating stem cells, private funding should be the only resource for collecting money, and cloning ??“ in my opinion ??“ should never happen. God is our creator; not man. Judgments will forever remain; however, the more we educate ourselves on what this research truly is, and what it can do, the stronger our opinions can be, based less on assumption and more on facts.
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