Embryotic Stem Cell Research
There is controversy surrounding the use of embryotic stem cell research in the treatment of serious, deadly, and dilapidating diseases. With the use of stem cell research we have been able to find treatments for HIV and cancers along with the use of chemotherapy and many other treatments and medications. Although a cure for diseases would be great, how far will scientists be willing to go (1)
Embryotic stem cells are developed from a female egg that has been fertilized by semen. This process takes 4-5 days. Embryotic stem cells are unspecialized cells that have the potential to develop into any of the 220 different cells types that make up the human body. Stem cells are ???Cells with the ability to divide for indefinite periods in culture and to give rise to specialized cells???. (6/7) ???A three to five day embryo is called a blastocyst (A preimplantation embryo of about 150 cells produced by cell division following fertilization. The blastocyst is a sphere made up of an outer layer of cells (the trophoblast), a fluid-filled cavity (the blastocoel), and a cluster of cells on the interior (the inner cell mass). Given the unique regenerative abilities, these cells offer new potentials when treating diseases.??? (6)
Scientist have been able to open eleven new NIH approved human Embryonic Stem cell lines. NIH is the Nation??™s Medical Research Agency; ???this agency supports scientific studies that turn discovery into health.??? (1) To help them get the new lines created was the use of In vitro fertilization embryos that were donated by families that no longer had a need for the embryo??™s or those that did not meet the requirements for in vitro fertilization. Before implanting the embryos into the woman??™s uterus they are looked at very closely to check for abnormalities. After they have been looked at the Doctors take the best three or four eggs and implant them to help increase the chances of pregnancy. If this does not work they then take three or four more eggs that may not be as ???good??? as the first set and implant them. This way it maximizes the chance of pregnancy during the first cycle. For the embryos that do not meet the requirements for In Virto fertilization or for the embryos that are no longer needed the families are given an option of donating them for research, adopting them out to another couple, taking the embryos home with them or holding funerals for the embryos. In order to donate or adopt out the embryos permission from both parties who created the embryos must be given. This is very nice for families that have decided they either do not want any more children or for those who are unable to get pregnant using their own eggs.
On March 9th 2009 Executive order 13505 ???Removing Barriers to Responsible Scientific Research Involving Human Stem Cells??? was issued by President Barack Obama. The Executive Order states that, ???the Secretary of Health and Human Services, through the Director of NIH, may support and conduct responsible, scientifically worthy human stem cell research, including human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research, to the extent permitted by law.???(11)
There are many steps in the research process. The first step is growing the embryo in a lab dish. The second step is to harvest the embryonic stem cells. The third step is finding a way to grow the right cell type and finding a way to test those cells to make sure they are safe. Researchers need to know that cells can integrate into surrounding tissues. At that point testing those cells in animals begins, this is to make sure the cells are the right cells and are safe for humans. Then begins the human clinical trials and several years later we receive the treatments in clinics. Although the research time is long and requires a large amount of funding, the treatments and cures for illnesses is proving to be beneficial and worth the wait.
In the mid 1800??™s stem cells were first discovered and considered building blocks for life. It was at that time that they realized stem cells could generate other cells. (3) In 1981 the discovery of how to harvest embryotic stem cells from mice embryos lead to the discovery of deriving stem cells from human embryos. It was also at this time that the method of growing cells in laboratories was discovered. (6)
Utilizing stem cells for treatment for diseases and injuries is very exciting. Scientists have been doing research in the treatment and cure of cancer, type 1 diabetes, Alzheimer??™s, Parkinson??™s disease, spinal cord injuries and many other injuries. In treating a diabetic person, the doctor injects the patient with pancreatic islet cells. These cell clusters are scattered throughout the pancreas. To include cells that senses the sugar in the blood. (5) This has been proven to work in rats and mice that are diabetic. After one treatment the mice and rats were showing very little to no diabetic symptoms. Although some of the mice and rats had their diabetes return the majority of them continued to stay symptom free. The mice and rats that were obese had their weight return to normal within four weeks. As the United States waits for the human clinical trials to start, researchers continue to work on more treatments for illnesses. There is research data that shows stem cells can be used in the treatment of Traumatic Brain Injuries to help regenerate cells in the brain. Many of the deadly diseases from years ago have now become treatable and some are even curable. (5) There are some possible side effects in regards to these treatments, as there are for most every medication or medical treatment for illnesses. Some of the side effects are stem cell rejection, uses of medications to help the stem cells so they are accepted by the immune system along with others.
There are several disadvantages to Stem Cell Research; to include the use of aborted or donated embryos for research, cloning, the cost of the research, and who will pay for it.
In 1996 Ian Wilmut, Keith Campbell and some other colleagues cloned a ewe and they named her Dolly. Dolly was the only Lamb that was born out of 277 attempts. Dolly was born in 1996 and died Feb 2003 at the age of six and a half, from lung cancer called Jaagsiekte. Jaagsiekte is a common disease that sheep develop when sleeping indoors. Unfortunately due to safety issues Dolly had to be kept indoors most of the time. This has not been proven to be the cause of Dolly??™s cancer but it could explain why she developed cancer. There was no autopsy performed on Dolly as she was cremated right after she was euthanized. (5)
The primary sources of embryos are from aborted fetuses and donated embryos from In Vitro Fertilization facilities. This has caused a huge controversy with many religious affiliations, pro-life organizations, and has affected today??™s politics. Since many pro-life believers say that life begins at conception any embryo that is used for stem cell research is considered a human being and there for many people think that using them is wrong and unethical. (6) Some of the issues that are being brought up are the fact that at four to six weeks the embryo has a heartbeat, at week twenty one embryos become patients in utero, they reach viability at week twenty four, and children are born at forty weeks. The legal debate continues about when an embryo is or isn??™t a life. (6)
Looking at how many embryotic stem cells we would need in order to cure just one disease is a great amount. To treat the 17 million patients with diabetes in the United States requires a minimum of 850 million to 1.7 billion human eggs. This is not including the other patients who have heart disease, Alzheimer??™s, Parkinson??™s or many of the other diseases and illnesses that this research will possibly be able to help. (11) In 2005 the cost of collecting 10 eggs per donor with a minimum of 85-170 million donor women the cost at that time was $100,00 – $200,00 for a minimum of 50-100 eggs per donor. This has brought about the concern for the women??™s health in regards to the fertility medications needed to produce large quantities of eggs for donating. Since using fertility medications for long periods of time in large quantities can cause many side effects to include infertility, seizure, memory loss, and many others to include death others. (8) It would be unethical to try and convince or force fertile women and young girls to become embryotic factories.
Who is to pay for all this research Some people say private funding others believe that the research should be completely federally funded. For the 2011 Fiscal Year the estimated amount to continue embryonic stem cell research has been budgeted at $126 million. (9) Even with federal funding stem cell research still needs additional funding. There are also many stem cell researches that are being funded by individuals or large companies.
The time between the start of Embryotic stem cell research and the possibility of finding a treatment or cure for diseases and illnesses can be anywhere between a day and 30 years. Although that is not a guaranteed time frame there really hasn??™t been a diffident amount of time set that have held any results. (10) If scientists gave up on therapies that could take years to develop there would not be many of the lifesaving medical technologies that have become common place such as bone marrow transplantation, recombinant insulin or even chemotherapy drugs. (12)
Several clinical trials are planned to start, some have started and several more have been completed. In 2010 a clinical trial was completed with the use of stem cell treatments in the treatment of diabetes. The diabetic patient had critical ischemia and healed completely within twelve months no amputation was needed. February 2011 a clinical trial started for treatment of Alzheimer??™s disease. It is estimated to be completed December 2011, in this trial they are using umbilical cord stem cells. Once this study is completed and the findings are approved by the FDA patients with Alzheimer??™s disease will be able to receive treatments for their dementia.
Many animal activist groups have been fighting against the use of animals in research. While using animals in research may seem mean or heartless, these animals are helping to provide data in the treatment and cure of many diseases. When researchers start testing cells they need many animal models that mimic human diseases. Many animals that have the same illnesses as humans do not show the same symptoms and signs for diseases humans do. Because of this not all treatments work for both animals and humans. This is why several different animal models need to be utilized. The use of animals in research also benefits animals, dogs, cats, cows, horses and other animals also get illnesses that humans get. So if scientists use 100 rats and find a cure for cancer the world is out 100 rats. On the other hand many men, woman, and children will be able to live out their lives due to the treatments and cures that have been found from that research. Animals that have cancer and other illnesses will be able to be treated and possibly not have to be euthanized due to the disease.
There is controversy surrounding the use of embryotic stem cell research in the treatment of serious, deadly and dilapidating diseases. With the use of stem cell research we have been able to find treatments for HIV and cancers along with the use of chemotherapy and many other treatments and medications. Although a cure for diseases would be great, how far will scientists be willing to go (1)
I feel if the use of embryotic stem cells in research can help to find a cure or different treatment for diseases and illnesses it is very beneficial to society. In all my research I have found that most of the eggs that are being used for embryotic stem cell research are being donated from fertility clinics or by the women who have decided they no longer have a use for the embryos. Also the fertility clinics are donating the embryos that do not meet the qualifications for In Vitro Fertilization. This is much better than having women become egg factories and using many different fertility medications to produce large quantities of eggs for donation. As many of the fertility drugs can cause many complications and illnesses.
When it comes to researchers cloning people, I feel this is wrong. I do realize that scientists do need to clone embryos to find cures and treatments for illnesses. Cloning embryos is one thing but when it comes to cloning people that is where science is going too far. If we start cloning our loved ones who pass away just so we have them with us still we will become over populated. At some point we just need to understand that we are born, we live, and we die. It is the same with a family pet. If we start cloning people and animals when do we say enough is enough Although cloning people may help women and young girls to not become egg donor factories we would still be doubling the human population. Doubling the human population would cause other issues within our society, to include food and water shortages along with housing shortages. As it is there are not enough jobs out in the world for the population we have, adding additional humans would make jobs even scarcer. Would it come to a point that we would have to start to warehouse these cloned people. If that were the case chances are good that crime would double if not triple. Additionally a cloned population could be used for slave labor or be used expressly for organ harvesting; this in any case would be unethical.
When it comes to benefiting men, women and children who are suffering from incurable and debilitating diseases I feel that this is a wonderful opportunity for our society. The use of stem cell research has proven to hold great promise in finding cures and treatments for serious and debilitating diseases and illnesses. With continuing research we have the opportunity of having cures for deadly and dilapidating diseases within the next 10-20 years.
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