What is stem cell research and why is it so important?
Stem cell research is a relatively new technology that takes primitive human cells and develops them into most any of the 220 varieties of cells in the human body, including blood cells and brain cells. Some scientists and researchers have great hope for this research and its ability to uncover treatments and possibly even cures for some of the worst diseases including heart disease, diabetes, and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Along with these hopeful possibilities, stem cell research also gives rise to fear of human cloning and serious concerns over the ethics of conducting scientific research on, which includes the destruction of, human embryos.
Types of Stem Cells
Human stem cells primarily come from embryos or adult tissue. Embryonic stem cells can be created solely for the purpose of stem cell research or they can be the leftover from other processes, such as from in-vitro fertilization (IVF). Fertility treatments usually result in the creation of multiple embryos, and since only the most viable are selected for implantation, some embryos are not used. These extra embryos can be discarded, donated to others seeking fertility assistance, preserved, or donated to research; most commonly, leftover embryos are discarded.
The overall debate over the ethics of stem cell research involves two major ethical concerns: (1) the potential for human cloning, and (2) whether these embryos, or pre-embryos as some refer to them, are human life. Perhaps the initial controversy is related to the possibility of human cloning. Especially when it first gained popularity, researchers were concerned with the potential for using stem cells to clone humans. Proponents make many arguments in support of human cloning including the possibility of creating another “you” should body parts or tissues be needed later in life as one may develop illnesses and diseases. Opponents primarily argue that it is not within man’s judgment to manufacture, manipulate, or destroy human life. But cloning appears to work in animals though and seems to be a non-issue on this front, yet remains more of an issue when it comes to human life.
The other major ethical issue related to stem cell research involves the ongoing debate over when life begins. Some say that life begins at conception and that the use of humans, even immature ones, for research purposes is unethical. Others claim that the embryos are only tiny amounts of undifferentiated tissue and since they are already scheduled for destruction, and have great potential benefit, they should be used to potentially help others. By helping others it is meant those that have diseases or a disability to help in finding a cure to these issues.
It is legal to conduct stem cell research in the United States, even for the purposes of human cloning. In 2001, President Bush authorized the issuing of federal funds for the research of over 60 existing stem cells lines. The funding was restricted to these cell lines because the issue of life and death was already decided; that is, the stem cell lines at that point were capable of independent and infinite regeneration. In 2009, President Obama reversed the policy and allowed federal funding to be used towards additional stem cell lines.
Other countries permit stem cell research to varying degrees. Countries such as Japan, Sweden, and the United Kingdom have made it legal, even for purposes of human cloning. Countries including Australia, Canada, and France allow adult and leftover embryonic research but not human cloning. Austria, Ireland, and Poland have some of the most restrictive laws on this type of research.
Stem cell research has been the subject of controversy since some years. All across the internet and other forms of mass media publications, one will find researchers taking up sides – for and against promoting stem cell research. Most probably, you too must be wondering about the same – what exactly is stem cell research? How does it affect the future of humankind? Is it legal to conduct the same in this country? There are plenty of queries concerning stem cell research; yet, it seems that there are no clear-cut answers to these questions.
The human body is composed or made up of various kinds of cells. These cells are preprogrammed to act in a specific manner. For instance, the functioning of the stomach cells and the cells lining the liver happens to be different. The data stored within the genetic architecture of the body will preprogram these cells. Here is an interesting observation – what if we have the ability to control these cells? I mean, what if, with the aid of intricate biological techniques, we can alter the programming of cells in order to examine their functioning. The same is occurring in this niche too.
Stem cell research is nothing but the cultivation of stem cells with the intention of examining and studying them for the benefit of humankind. Consider an embryo or a developing fetus present within a mother’s womb. During the initial stages, there are only groups of cells within the embryo. These cells have no specific functionality and can aggregate themselves to develop into the brain or the liver or the heart. In other words, these cells present in the fetus are nothing but a blueprint for the cells that will occur in the coming weeks. These cells are otherwise termed as stem cells.
Researchers utilize stem cell research to study the effect of various biological techniques on inaccessible cells. The procedure is as follows – the professional would take some stem cells, inject it with genetic information that will enable it to act like the cells taken from the brain. Now, the same exert can spend hours experimenting with various techniques and remedial measures on these stem cells. How does that sound? It might appear easy as well as exciting; however, it is a tedious process, which has highly beneficial vantages. Many organizations and pharmaceutical companies conduct extensive studies on these cells to develop newer treatment strategies.
I recently have read a fascinating article of a journalist’s scientific divulger Alessandro Sicuro : STEM CELLS. TO SALAMANDER FROM THE MODERN THERAPIES. ITs ‘MORE’ TOUGH DEFEAT THE EVIL OR PREJUDICE AND INTEREST !? (click here for read more=> http://wp.me/p2kXuA-1sw ) detailing some of the intensive research being done and the success that has been found thus far, what has been learned from past trials and what they are continuing to learn. A question that comes up and has been worked on with such interesting results, and that is if salamanders can grow back limbs, why can’t we? This is what the founder of ACell always wondered and was the inspiration for his work on cell regeneration that began in the 1950’s. In doing research, he discovered something special about the basement membrane: if you remove it and a salamander’s tail (or limbs) would not regenerate. This basement membrane – it exists in every living cell in our bodies – is responsible for constructive remodeling. If the basement membrane is maintained, bodies may heal differently. He eventually made significant strides in regenerative medicine using extracellular scaffolds. ACell, Inc. was founded in 1999 to manufacture MatriStem®, the only commercially available form of urinary bladder matrix (UBM), containing basement membrane and numerous collagens. But it appears to me that if the salamander sustains a cut or loses a limb it would have the ability to heal itself and to have the missing limb regenerate itself. http://www.acell.com/index.html
In Italy, there are great scientists like Dr. Vannoi, who invented the stamina, but far too many politicians, run by pharmaceutical companies, have banned testing and administration. The reasons for these rejections do not make sense at all, and appears that donors are subject to rigorous controls. The pharmaceutical companies also play a role in medical research, how else would we have the medicines that we do today and continue to improve on.
I know from first-hand experience that having a staph infection plus MRSA is resistant to most of the antibiotics that are used to treat it, and only respond to a select few and those are used in combination together to treat the infection.
I find it shameful that Italian politicians will always for a reason not to support such important and necessary research that helps in studying and finding cures for health issues such as diabetes, cancer, Parkinson’s Disease, all forms of Muscular Dystrophy, ALS and so much more. Without the research would diseases such as polio have been eradicated?