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Stem Cell Technology:The Controversies Surrounding Stem Cell Research

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Stem Cell Technology:

The Controversies surrounding Stem Cell Research


Whether you are in favor of or against certain forms of stem cell research, it

cannot be denied that an immense amount of benefits are gained from the research. The

extent of this research is endless. Scientists are only beginning to explore this

technology. However, no research or medical technology is without controversy.

Most of the debate falls between the embryonic stem (ESC) and germ cells

EGC). When a cell is removed from an embryonic cell, the cell will not be able to

survive. Many opponents of stem cell research view this method as the killing an

innocent life. However, both opponents and proponents agree the most ethical sources

of obtaining these cells are from embryos lost by miscarriage of stillbirths. The other two

sources of the ESC or EGC are surrounded in controversy. These sources are from

aborted fetuses and frozen embryos.

There is also debate within the scientific community. In regards to adult stem

cells (ASC), proponents and opponents agree this adult tissue is also an ethical source.

However, scientists argue that the ASC lack in the ability to have multiple uses. The lack

of source data being provided is another issue. At this time, there is limited information

available of where the tissue has been obtained. Researchers are asking for this

information to become more steadily available.

The last controversial issue involves funding. Supporters and adversaries

disagree on the use of federal funding for any projects involving stem cell research.

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However, both agree that public funding through private sources is acceptable. This

issue has come under many debates both in the medical community and in Congress.

The ESC and EGC debate is best stated by Senator Sam Brownback’s testimony

on stem cell research. “We on this panel, I believe, all in this room, believe that an

embryo is alive. The central question remains, is it a life? Or is it a mere piece of

property to be disposed of as its master chooses?” (Wildmoon)

The Controversies surrounding Stem Cell Research

In stem cell research, there are three sources to obtain stem cells. Another is

Through the fetal tissue in an older embryo, which generate embryonic germ cells. These

Types of cells are seen to have the most potential, due to their versatility. The last source

is through mature tissues, which are adult stem cells.

As previously stated, ESC and EGC must be extracted from an embryo. The least

Controversial method used is from a pregnancy resulting in miscarriage or stillbirth.

Proponents and opponents of stem cell research agree this method is viable. In fact, there

have been no religious groups who have expressed any opposition to this method.

However, scientists argue there is a problem in obtaining healthy cells through either of

these methods. Many miscarriages and stillbirths result from fetal abnormalities. Timing

is also a problem. Most women, who miscarry within the first eight weeks, do not

miscarry while at a hospital or clinic. (AAAS, pg. 13) Therefore, the fetus is unable to be

obtained soon enough, if at all.

Another method of obtaining embryonic stem and germ cells is through embryos

frozen for in vitro fertilization. A couple has the option of donating extra frozen

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embryos to stem cell research. There are firm donation regulations in place at fertility

clinics for embryos. There must be no additional ovulation cycles for the sole purpose of

having embryos to donate to research. The people who work with fertilizing patients

must be separate from those requesting the donation of the embryos. Donors must not be

compensated in any way. Lastly, consent must be given from the couple individually.

The fertilization industry believes these regulations ensure the decision being

made is a sound, well though out one. They also feel if people knew how many embryos

are discarded yearly, it would change many people’s opinion on this method. For

example, over three thousand frozen embryos were mandatorily discarded in 1996. In

addition, approximately 100,000 embryos were unable to be transferred or abandoned.

(AAAS, pg. 14). However by reviewing the graph below you can see that discarded



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