Stem Cells: The master cell or the disaster cell?

Much of the controversy in science comes from not knowing or not wanting to know information that is accessible to anyone with a computer. Whether it’s based off of morals, religion or ignorance, many potentially lucrative areas of study are being hindered by not being knowledgeable of the facts. A specific topic of much controversy and much ignorance is that of stem cell research.

In general, stem cell research has the potential to create solutions to numerous diseases, illnesses, disorders, and injuries. However, there are many opposed to this research. The three main reasons against stem cell research are:

1. Stem cell research requires the destruction of a human embryo to obtain cells, which is immoral.

This argument, which is centered around morality, had previously convinced the general public to ban the use of human embryonic stem cells in America. However, more recently in 2006, “elections shifted the balance in the US Congress in favor of proponents of human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research, suggesting that many citizens are not convinced by the moral argument that all human embryos (including those abandoned and indefinitely frozen in fertility clinics) are sacrosanct and may not be destroyed for any reason” (Nature). Whether it was a shift in public opinion or the public decided the pros outweighed the cons, many people no longer believed that the destruction of the embryo is a good enough reason to stop a research field that is so promising. The Roman Catholic Church saw this shift in what the general public believes is and isn’t moral and the church countered this by taking excerpts from articles, such as this (http://www.firstthings.com/article/2009/01/002-what-we-know-about-embryonic-stem-cells-26), to “show” that stem cell research has “no convincing evidence that embryonic stem cells could be reliably differentiated into normal adult cell types…” and that “overcoming this barrier would prove a difficult scientific endeavor” (Condic, http://www.nature.com/neuro/journal/v10/n4/full/nn0407-393.html). While the source of that quote is credible, and it is true that progress in stem cell research requires much failure (as does literally any scientific process), it is by no means a reason to stop conducting this research.

2. Human Embryos are in short supply and stem cell research STILL requires killing a human embryo (the redundancy is intentional).

Even though the general public has agreed stem cell research is promising, the death of human embryos IS a true concern for the research. However, due to the progression in stem cell research, there are now methods in which stem cells can be induced from cells that are similar to skin cells. This innovation completely avoids the need to destroy and harvest human embryos for cells. Now the soothsayers shouldn’t have a problem with not killing embryos, but even the idea of stem cells scares them, which brings us to the third point:

3. Tumorgenicity and Immunorejection.

Tumorigenicity is a concern to have because injecting stem cells straight into someones body will lead to the formation of a tumor (although they are mostly benign); Immunorejection involves the immune system attacking transplanted stem cells and causing a potential autoimmune attack and death. However, these fears and concerns stem from a lack of knowledge. If people had the time to dive into numerous articles about stem cell research, few to none suggest simply injecting stem cells into people. Instead, the articles suggest differentiating the cells, or causing them to change into a different stem cell, before transplanting them. Additionally, breakthroughs have been made that have reduced the tumorigenicity and immunorejection rates of stem cells and their differentiated offspring. Although it is not nearly ready, stem cell therapy may give people a second chance to live; people could regrow their motor neurons and walk again; people could regrow their limbs. Yes there is a chance of abusing stem cells if the right breakthroughs are made by the wrong people, but stem cell research requires such a specific niche of knowledge that the chances are unlikely and should be taken.

Already people have had there tracheas regrown by stem cells and it was successfully transplanted into a human 

A skin regrowing spray for major burn victims has been created that allows a higher survival rate (http://news.discovery.com/tech/spray-on-skin-cells-for-burn-victims.htm). In less than a century results from stem cell research can already be SEEN and APPLIED to people, I don’t see why we can’t give the research more time. Scientific researchers have a knowledge that is often so specialized that from researcher to researcher in the same lab there is little overlap, but most have a “basic set of knowledge” that allows them to understand why something should be researched. The general public however doesn’t have this “basic set of knowledge” that researchers do. While it may be impossible to educate the general public up to the “basic set of knowledge” researchers have, I think that as the public we should trust in those who specialize in research and believe what they are doing is for the best.

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