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Opposing Embryonic Stem Cell Research

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Opposing Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Stem cell research has a lot to offer in the way of treatments, or even cures to some devastating diseases that humans face. However, research using human embryonic stem cells that can only be obtained by killing a human embryo can not be condoned or paid for by the United States Government. Federal funding needs to focus on the adult stem cell research that has already been proven successful and can be obtained without destroying a human life.

Ethics and morals need to be considered when the destruction of one human life is acceptable so that another human may live. The first thing to differentiate is that it is ethical to experiment on human tissue, but those experiments on human beings are not ethical. Therefore, it is perfectly ethical to proceed with any and all types of stem cell research as long as human tissue is being used, but it is completely unethical to do embryonic stem cell research, which by its very nature necessitates the killing of a living human embryo to obtain that stem cell (Willke). Science has shown that embryos contain all the necessary parts to grow into a living, breathing human. To understand this we must first review early development biology. J. C. Willke writes:

Human life begins at the union of sperm and ovum. During that first day, this is properly termed a "fertilized egg." However, this single-celled human body divides, divides, and divides again, so that nearing the end of the first week this embryo, now called a "blastocyst," numbers several hundred cells. After the first day, a number of names apply to various developmental stages of the same living human, fertilized egg, or zygote (a single cell), a blastocyst (many cells), embryo, fetus, infant, child adolescent, etc. During the first week, this tiny new human floats freely down his or her mother's tube, dividing and sub-dividing as the journey is made. At about one week of life, he or she plants within nutrient lining of the woman's uterus. In about three more days, having sent roots into the wall of the uterus, this new human sends a chemical hormonal message into the mother's blood stream and this stops her menstrual period. Four days later, the embryonic heart begins to beat and three weeks after that, brain waves are measurable. The biologic fact is that from day one, inside and then outside of the uterus, this is one continuous, uninterrupted period of growth and development.

Human embryos are not mere clusters of cells; they are the tiniest of human beings. Thus, we have a moral responsibility to not harm them. When embryos are being killed, it is a form of murder on human life. Nancy L. Jones, cell biologist at Wake Forest Baptist, "Before asking 'can we do it?' scientists should ask 'should we do it'?" (qtd. in "Time")

In order to develop an opinion on whether or not stem cells should be used, one first must understand what they are and how they are used. Simply stated, the definition of a stem cell is an undifferentiated cell, meaning that it has no true function yet. However, all of the genes within a human stem cell have the potential to become other types of cells. The triggering mechanism for this is for the stem cells to be placed among specialized cells. Specialized cells include skin cells, muscle cells, or any other type of cell that has a specific function in the body. Many expansive claims have been made on the benefits of embryonic stem cell research, but the truth is that embryonic stem cell research has not helped a single human being or demonstrated any therapeutic benefit. Steven Ertelt reported "Initial trials involving fetal stem cells have proven disastrous, with some patients going into convulsions following injections of embryonic stem cells. The results have been so devastating, in fact, that some scientists are calling for a halt to all embryonic stem cell research" ("President Bush"). Embryonic stem cells have just not proven successful.

A stem cell has been found in adults that can turn into every single tissue in the body (Westphal). Adult stem cells have already proven to be successful in treating diseases and have helped hundreds of thousands of patients, and new clinical uses expand almost weekly. Adult stem cells can be obtained from cord blood, fat, neural tissue, muscle, bone marrow, placental and skin cells. Adult stem cells are increasingly being shown to have a similar and perhaps an identical capacity to become cells of other types. There is a possibility that adult stem cells may function more efficiently and more safely than embryonic cells. Treena Arinzeh, a young professor who last year won a Presidential Award, the nation's highest scientific honor, is bringing the promise of stem cell research one step closer to reality. Adult stem cells also have a unique trait that lends them their magic: Under the right conditions, or given the proper signals, they have the ability to turn into different cell types. Arinzeh is doing exactly that: developing signals, in the form of biomaterials, that will help adult stem cells turn into cells that, if injected into a diseased area of the human body, could regenerate damaged tissue. Her research has also led to two major stem-cell discoveries: One showing that stem cells, when mixed with biomaterials known as scaffolds, can help regenerate bone growth; and another proving that stem cells taken from one person can be successfully implanted into another. A list of conditions for which stem-cell treatment holds promise grows almost daily: It now includes Parkinson's, diabetes, Alzheimer's, cancer and traumatic brain injury (qtd. in "Researcher Takes Stem Cell"). Griffith University researcher Professor Alan Mackay-Sim said "The big advantage over embryonic stem cells is their potential for autologous therapies in which a patient's own cells are removed from the nose, grown and multiplied in a dish and transplanted back into the same patient which overcomes the issue of immune rejection or related immune-suppressing drug therapies" (qtd. in "Potential Seen"). When stem cells are taken from another human, even in embryonic stem cells, there is likelihood that the body will reject the stem cell. This concept is no different than having an organ transplant, where sometimes that body will reject the "foreign" organ. Stem cells taken from the patient would have the same DNA and the body would accept the stem cells. This is useful in many cancer therapies, where cells in some parts of the body can become cancerous and cell rejection could be dangerous. In reality, adult stem cells may prove to be superior because



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