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The Benefits Of Embryonic Stem Cell Research

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The Benefits of Embryonic Stem Cell Research

The term "stem cell" is a general term for any cells in the body that have the ability to divide and generate a new and identical cell. There are three types of stem cells found in human- adult stem cells, embryonic stem cells and cord stem cells. Embryonic stem cell research is one of the potential research for medical treatments because embryonic stem cells have the possibility to develop into any type of cells in the human body - undifferentiated cells found throughout the human body that divide to replace dying cells and regenerate damaged tissues. Embryonic stem cell researchers are trying to extract the stem cells before they differentiate and use this stem cell to obtain certain types of tissues or cells. As a result, embryonic stem cells have the potential to cure diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, cancer, Parkinson's disease, spinal cord injuries, genetic disorders and much more.

A group of University of Wisconsin - Madison development biologists led by James Thomson, in November 1998, introduced the first developed technique to extract and grow the stem cells into five independent stem cell lines that derived from human embryos (Kiesslin 1). These stem cell lines derived from the blastocyst, early stage of embryos approximately four to five days old, and capable to develop into any specific cell types such as bone, muscle, brain cell, neuronal cells, and much more (Kiesslin 1). Embryonic stem cells are considering pluripotent, stem cell that has the potential to differentiate into any cell types of the adult body (Kiesslin 1). Embryonic stem cells are important to medicine and science because of this technology can be lead into discovery of new drugs to cure many human diseases that are impossible to treat by current medicines (Kiesslin 1). The other importance of embryonic stem cells research is to study the early stages of human development because it is easier to study the cell development than to study the embryos development (Kiesslin 1). These studies of early stages of human development could help to reduce birth defects and help a baby be born in healthy conditions (Kiesslin 1). However, most researchers mentioning embryonic stem cells could help treating a wide range of cell-based diseases - diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, cancer, Parkinson's disease, spinal cord injuries, genetic disorders and much more - by organs transplant, or transplant healthy cells to replace damaged, faulty or diseased cells.

So what is the controversy on embryonic stem cell research? Pro-life organizations, who value human life, are against the embryonic stem cell research because the extraction of stem cells from an embryo requires the destruction of a human embryo; in other word, a human life is being killed if the embryonic stem cell method is used to extract stem cells. These organizations believe that life begins at fertilization, and destruction of this embryo or human life is morally unacceptable, violates the sanctity of life, and is the same as murder. Moreover, these organizations' ideas came from the religiously motivated belief that human life has to be secure from destruction and violence. However, embryonic stem cell researchers use a tiny embryo cell, which has no human features, for embryonic stem cell development. In addition, these researchers use embryos that were created using in vitro fertility method. Most of these embryos are never implanted in women's uterus and are designated to be stored for research purposes. Sorem Holm in Going to the Roots of the Stem Cell Controversy, arguing that there are no jurisdictions that have legislation which view embryos as same as human beings in term of moral status. Moreover, Holm illustrated that, even embryos have given some moral status, sacrificing a small number of embryos is outweigh by reduction of human death and cure for some dangerous diseases. Holm gave some points on embryos produced for research - very large ova needed and came from women - and in vitro fertilization embryos: using in vitro fertilization embryos for research has less controversy than using embryos produced just for research because researchers using left over embryos from in vitro fertilization rather than producing a new embryos just for experiments. Furthermore, Holm mentioned researchers could use other species ova to create stem cells by cell nuclear replacement techniques to overcome the shortage of ova if in vitro fertilization embryos not used to produce stem cells. According to Holm, using other species ova might be fewer problems against ethical issues than using human ova. In The Embryonic Stem Cell Lottery and the Cannibalization of Human Beings, Julian Savulescu arguing the same as Holm because Savulescu believe that an embryo is just a human cell rather than a person. According to Savulescu, killing one person to save many or to reduce the risk of death is worth to do more research on embryonic stem cell. Savulescu gave some examples to support her point of view; for instance, the fetus head must be craniotomy, breaking of the fetal skull to reduce its size for removal when normal delivery is impossible, in order to save mother's life. Savulescu questioning our society accepts these types - multifetal reduction, fetal craniotomy, and even conjoined twins - of killing to save others but they did not accept the killing embryos for stem cell research. Savulescu point out that killing embryo is not only benefit for the person who are certain to die, but also for the person who are at risk of dying.

In August 2006, Dr. Robert Lanza, medical director of Advanced Cell Technology, was mentioning that his team had found a better way to extract embryonic stem cells without destroying the embryos (Lanza 4). Lanza's team used a single cell biopsy technique, a medical technique involving the removal of cells for examination, to extract a single stem cell when the embryo was at the 8 to 10 cell stage (Lanza 4). Preimplantation genetic diagnosis uses the same stage to remove a single cell from blastocyst, which on this case, extracted cell does not interfere with the embryo's development (Lanza 4). Using this method, Lanza and his team succeed to get two stable embryonic stem cell lines that behaved as embryonic stem cell lines extracted using previous method. This technical achievement would help stem cell researchers to work with their researches on embryonic stem cell without any ethical problems (Lanza 4). In addition, researchers could work with new lines of embryonic stem cells derived using public funding because there are significant restrictions on federal funding on embryonic stem cell research which limit publicly-funded research on embryonic stem cell research prior to August 2001 (Lanza 4).

Some people argue that funding

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