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Is Stem Cell Research Ethical?

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Ethics Behind Stem Cell Research.

Is Stem Cell Research ethical? Yes, it is. An embryo which is four or five days old, from which stem cells are derived, is not a human being yet, because it’s brain is nonfunctional and it’s heart is not beating. So destroying it would not be murder, it’s just a beginning of a long process of obtaining stem cells from it. Ronald Reagan, The Ethics Committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, Christopher Reeve, Michael J. Fox and various writers and reporters for scientific magazines and newspapers have declared Embryonic Stem cell Research ethical. With support and funding, Embryonic Stem Cell Research will help cure a variety of diseases that are now considered incurable.

Whether or not stem cell research is ethical is a very controversial issue, especially today in science and politics. A lot of people argue that it is ethical and that will help save millions of lives. Others argue against it, justifying their beliefs, by saying that innocent lives of future fetuses are destroyed. Embryonic Stem Cell research is the most efficient way of finding cures for various diseases. Opponents of Embryonic stem cell research suggest that scientists use adult stem cells instead. However, embryonic stem cells have a much greater developmental potential than adult stem cells. Embryonic stem cells are pluripotent, meaning they have developmental plasticity, whereas adult stem cells are multipotent, which means that they can give rise to cells only within their own category. Embryonic stem cells are cells that are very likely to develop into a great number of cell types in the body by scientists’ manipulation. These cells can theoretically divide to replace other cells as long as an organism is still alive. When each cell divides, it can either remain a stem cell for further research, or it can become a specialized cell such as a “muscle cell, a red blood cell, or a brain cell, according to the National Institutes of Health.

The National Institutes of Health provided a lot of useful information as to how stem cells are derived, what they are, and how tedious the process of deriving them is. Embryonic stem cells are derived for embryos, which usually come from in vitro fertilization. The embryos are usually four or five days old, and they are called the blastocyst. The blastocyst consists of three parts: the trophoblast, which surrounds the blastocyst, the blastocoel, which is a hollow cavity inside the blastocyst and the inner cell mass, which is a group of about thirty cells at one end of the blastocoel. Scientists grow the embryonic stem cells by isolating the inner cell mass in a Petri dish. In order for these cells to continue dividing and living, they are contained in a nutrient medium. Until recently, the inner surface of the Petri dish used to be coated with mouse embryonic skin cells in order for the embryonic stem cells (ESC) have something to attach to. Recently, scientists have found different ways of growing ESCs without using mouse cells. Celeste Biever, a reporter for the New Scientists magazine, who has done extensive research on the disadvantages of using mouse skin cells for growing embryonic cells. She stated that, after a variety of experiments, scientists now use a “jelly-like matrix, human muscle or blood cells” instead of mouse cells. Using blood or muscle cells, instead of mouse cells, were found to be more beneficial for stem cells because after several days, ESCs begin to crown the Petri dish. So they are gently put into more dishes and this process lasts for about six months. After six months, the inner cell mass produces several million of ESCs. Embryonic stem cells that survive in this culture without differentiating and appear normal and healthy, are called pluripotent cells, and are also referred to as the embryonic stem cell line. Once stem lines are retrieved from the culture, they are frozen and can be transported to other labs for further testing. As long as ESCs are grown under certain conditions, they remain undifferentiated. In order from scientists to create differentiated cells, they need to manipulate the conditions under which the cells are dividing. For example, they can change the composition of the nutrients or insert specific genes. If the scientists are successful at forcefully differentiating stem cells into specific cell types, they can use them to find cures to various, incurable at this point in time, diseases. These diseases include “ Parkinson’s, diabetes, traumatic spinal cord injury, Purkinje cell degeneration, Duchene’s muscular dystrophy, heart disease, and vision and hearing loss.” ( National Institutes of Health.)

This extremely long process requires patience, preciseness, carefulness, thorough knowledge and resources. Scientists have done their part. They have carefully studied the stem cell’s structure and behavior. They pay close attention to this 6-month process. However, finding resources is out of their reach. Of course, they can persuade private organizations to donate money, however that alone will never be enough. The only way to get federal funding is to convince a number of people that stem cell research is ethical and very promising for the future. A lot of people in the cabinet have different views on this subject, so convincing then in order to get funding is virtually impossible. So scientists are left to rely solely on their skills and on little funding that they do have to continue on producing more stem lines for research.

During the Democratic National Convention, Ron Reagan, while debating whether to allow funding, stated, “…we face a choice between the future and the past; between reason and ignorance; between true compassion and mere ideology.” To that he added, “a few of these folks [who oppose funding Stem Cell Research] are just grinding a political axe, and they should be ashamed of themselves.” Regan was a stronger proponent of embryonic stem cell research and he looked down upon people who opposed embryonic stem cell research.. He believed that embryonic stem cell research is completely ethical and that it could save a great number of lives. He also did not believe that four or five day-old embryos are not human beings yet, so obtaining stem lines from them would not kill them. He also blamed the opponents of embryonic stem cell research for being selfish and not seeing the benefits of stem cell research. A great figure, such as Ronald Reagan, was very successful at showing where he stands with stem cell research. He was a strong supporter of stem cell research and he persuaded a lot of people to follow in footsteps of supporting stem



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