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The Study Of Stem Cell Research And How Science And Ethics Relate

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The study of stem cell research and how science and ethics relate

The human body, coupled with technology, has come a long way from centuries past. Through medical advancements, the human duration of life has extended from what previous centuries were used to. While technology improves human existence, sacrifices have been made to reach the point where humans are now. We as a whole have to decide when to draw the line on what is practical for science and beneficial for the human race. As times change, technology is bought more to the forefront. The advancements in technology help us as people and living organisms in general. Technology has improved many things as well as made the impossible, possible. With the positives also come the negatives. Who gets to decide what is safe and what is going too far? Stem cell research may be beneficial through extensive research; however, ethics and funding for the research prevent stem cell research from reaching its fullest potential.

A stem cell, by definition, is an unspecialized cell that gives rise to a specific specialized cell, such as a blood cell (The American HeritageÐ'® Dictionary, 2000). Stem cells have the potential to develop into many different cell types in the body. “Serving as a sort of repair system for the body, they can theoretically divide without limit to replenish other cells as long as the person or animal is still alive” (Stem cell basics, 2006). When a stem cell divides, the new cells are characteristically able to remain as is or become another type of cell such as a muscle cell, a red blood cell, or a brain cell. The morphing capabilities of stem cells make them very valuable, both medically and scientifically. There are two major characteristics that make stem cells important.

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First, they are unspecialized cells that can renew themselves for long periods through cell division. The second is that under certain physiologic or experimental conditions, they

can be induced to become cells with special functions such as the beating cells of the heart muscle or the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. (Stem cell basics).

Stems cells are important not just for humans, but all living organisms and for many different reasons. The study of human stem cell research came about in 1998, consequently from the study of mice embryos. “Many years of detailed study of the biology of mouse stem cells led to the discovery of how to isolate stem cells from human embryos and grow the cells in the laboratory” (Stem cell basics, 2006). This type of cell is called human embryonic stem cell. There are two types of stem cells that scientist generally work with from animals and humans. They are embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells. Embryonic stem calls come from embryos, whereas, an adult stem cell is an “undifferentiated cell found among differentiated cells in a tissue or organ, can renew itself, and can differentiate to yield the major specialized cell types of tissues or organs” (Stem cell basics). Using laboratory mice for scientific discoveries has helped further the search for cures for various ailments and disorders in the human race throughout the years.

Stem cell research is beneficial for many people, especially those suffering from illnesses that do not currently have a cure. There are many chronic illnesses that many people are suffering from that result in death because there is currently no cure. Stem cell research offers a glimmer of hope for many sick patients. Stem cell basics (2006) claims that is has been hypothesized by scientists that stem cells may, at some point in the future, become the basis for treating diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, and heart disease. Knowing that it is

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possible to do away with such life endangering diseases, such as those mentioned above, should serve as a motivator to expound upon stem cell research. “There are many technical hurdles between the promise of stem cells and the realization of these uses, which will only be overcome by continued intensive stem cell research” (Stem cell basics). Stem cell research may make it possible to generate completely healthy heart muscle cells in the laboratory and transplant those cells into patients with chronic heart disease.

The study of stem cells is also very beneficial for the future of new drugs and toxins as well as gaining a better understanding of birth defects. Stem cells essentially are the basic matter of human beings. Using that basic matter to research new processes will greatly assist and benefit researchers in the long run. What better way to see how one thing reacts to another than using the real thing? Stem cell basics (2006) claims new medications could be tested for safety on differentiated cells generated from human pluripotent cell lines. Results will be genuine because it will be using basic cells that prove to have the capability of giving way to life. Through stem cell research, it may be “possible to understand how cell proliferation is regulated during normal embryonic development or during the abnormal cell division that leads to cancer” (Stem cell basics). Through medically advanced technology and more scientific experimentation, many body debilitating disorders can be placed under a magnifying glass to ensure everything is being done to find a cure.

Ethics plays a big part in the way congress handles decisions regarding stem cell research. Stem cell research gets less financial support because of the fact that some embryos are destroyed in the research process. “Do we really want 300-400 fertilized human embryos to be destroyed to create stem cells?” (EU to keep funding, 2006). Although embryos for stem cell

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research do not come from birthing mothers, stem cell research still comes under fire because the donated embryos are destroyed in the research process. “Embryonic stem cells are derived from embryos that develop from eggs that have been fertilized in vitro- in an in vitro fertilization clinic- and then donated for research purposes with the informed consent of the donor” (Stem cell basics, 2006). While the issue of destroying the embryos lives at the forefront of the debate over stem cell research, some private companies are looking over and attempting to invent ways to create human embryonic cells without destroying viable embryos.

Ethics also comes into play as an issue when it comes to stem cell

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