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Stem Cell Research

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Stem Cell Research

The issue of stem cell research has been an increasingly important issue in political debate. Mostly a partisan issue, stem cells have had a hard time gaining support on a national scale. The lines for stem cell research have been drawn along the same provisions as the issue of abortion. This issue is tied in to the ideas of the Pro-Life and Pro-Choice supporters. Typical Pro-Life supporters, usually Republicans, do not support embryonic stem cell research while Pro-Choice supporters, usually Democrats, support embryonic stem cell research. Stem cells are derived by breaking open the embryo before it is implanted in the uterus, and then removing the inner cell mass, which is the tissue that forms an infant within the mother's womb. With the numerous possibilities that stem cells could hold for people on a large scale, this sharp divide in the political spectrum has pushed the issue of stem cells to the forefront of political platforms. Much of this divide can be attributed to the role that religious ethics play in the manipulation of a human embryo. Many Conservatives are of Catholic or Protestant belief and do not believe that it is right to discard, destroy or subject a human embryo to substantial risk. Though the research done on these embryos may lead to saving a persons life, they do not see the morality behind "killing a life (embryo) to save a life". This idea is contained within the Pro-Life movement. The role of ethics in stem cell research has played a huge role in its lack of development on a national scale. Congress has forbidden funding for any embryonic stem cell research and federal scientists have a very limited selection when it comes to existing lines of stem cells. The stem cells have to be approved by George W. Bush. It is very difficult for organizations to research embryonic stem cells without federal funding. It is because of these sharp debates in politics regarding stem cell research that has forced scientists to find techniques which alleviate ethical concerns. Recently, two new stem cell techniques have been designed which sidestep the controversial methods currently in place. These methods virtually eliminate the possibility of an embryo being destroyed or damaged in the process of extracting inner cell mass. The recent findings have brought hope to many people that eventually, stem cell methods will be found that allow bipartisan support of stem cell research.

Stem Cell Research has become a staple of political campaigns over the last decade. The lines have been sharply divided by Republicans and Democrats. This contrast in views on stem cell research and the use of stem cells was seen in the presidential race and more recently, within the New Jersey race for governor.

Over the past year, Democrat Jon S. Corzine and Republican Douglas R. Forrester have debated about whether or not embryonic stem cell research and the funding for stem cells are needed in New Jersey. Democrat Jon S. Corzine believes that embryonic research in New Jersey will put the state at the forefront of some of the "most promising medical advances of our generation"(2). One of his television ads consists of a young man who is paralyzed and insinuates that if Douglas Forrester is elected, he will be doomed to his wheelchair for the rest of his life. On the other end of the political spectrum lies Republican Douglas R. Forrester. He is opposed to embryonic stem cell research and states that he will prevent any state funds from being used on stem cell research. Many people believe that Douglas Forrester was very deceiving in his race for governor because during many debates and public appearances he spoke positively about the promises of stem cells. In the end, Jon Corzine was elected the New Jersey governor and a main reason for that is believed to be his stance on stem cell research. He will continue to make New Jersey a leader in stem cell research where previous Governor Richard J. Codey left off. Prior to Mr. Corzine's term, Mr. Codey has been able to make a statewide public bank for umbilical and placental blood which can further be used for stem cell research. During Mr. Codey's tenure he also madr the nation's first state supported stem cell research institute as well as providing $400 million of funding for stem cell science. Only a few days after being elected, Jon Corzine held a Stem Cell New Cures kickoff at Hackensack hospital in New Jersey. At this kickoff he stated that he believes stem cell research will "lead to the cures for ailments of humanity" (2). He hopes to make New Jersey into the nationwide leader in all kinds of stem cell research and seems to be on the right track for his goals.

As a result of the sharp political divide on stem cell research, private teams of scientists have been trying to find new methods which appeal to both Republicans and Democrats. Within the past month, two new methods have been found which possibly may lead to government support on a national level.

The first of these methods has been developed by Dr. Robert Lanza and his colleagues at Advance Cell Technology. He has devised a technique in which the stem cells are "derived without the need to destroy an embryo" (1). Dr. Lanza and his colleagues see this as a major landmark for stem cell research because it eliminates the necessity to destroy an embryo which is the chief objection of stem cell opponents. Though this technique seems promising, it has only been tested on mice embryo as of now. Embryologist Brigid M. Hogan said that she "can't think of a reason why the technique would not theoretically work" (1) in humans. She attributes this statement to the fact that mice and humans are very similar at the level of embryonic development used for stem cells. Due to the similarities in mice and human embryos, scientists believe that it will only be a matter of time before these techniques are successful on human embryos. The main concept that the people at Advanced Cell Technology have devised is that they have found a way to make cells that mimic the stem cells formed from inner cell mass in previous methods. They managed to perform this by removing one cell from the fertilized mouse egg right before the blastocyst is formed. With this removed cell, the scientists found a way to grow that cell into other cells that have "all the same essential properties as embryonic stem cells derived from the inner cell mass. This new method may also "allow every child that is born through pre-implantation genetic testing to have its own line of embryonic cells banked for the future" (1). This means that the child will have cells readily available to help combat and possibly cure any tissue or organ that is afflicted.



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