Advancements in medical technology has allowed for a new understanding of stem cells and further developments in research. The use of stem cells in regenerative medicine may hold significant benefits for those suffering from degenerative diseases. To avail such advancements in stem cell research could see the alleviation or complete cure of afflictions that take the lives of millions worldwide each year. (McLaren, 2001) A stem cell 1 is able differentiate into any somatic cell found in the human body, including those identical to itself.
Differentiation is a cellular process whereby a stem cell will divide into a specialised cell, for example a neuron2. To harness the unique cellular function of a stem cell could mean the cultivation of entirely new organs; saving countless lives and resolving acute organ transplant shortages. (Healey, 2007) Although stem cell research poses a considerable breakthrough in regenerative medicine, it raises serious ethical controversy. A specific type of stem cell used in regenerative research is an embryonic stem (ES) cell; harvested through the destruction of human embryos. (Hurlbut, 2006) This poses a significant ethical dilemma, as ES cells are sourced from pre-implantation embryos leftover from In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF). The destruction of embryos is seen by many as an abuse of human life, an exploitation of those that are living, but cannot decide their own fate. (Masters, 2005) Before ES cell research is to make a positive impact on modern medicine and the global scientific community, this ethical predicament must first be considered.
Embryonic stem cell research will allow for an emerging era of medicine, where researches will be capable of providing a cure for many of todays degenerative diseases. ES cell research offers hope to those suffering from some of todays most common and severe diseases, including; cancer, heart disease, diabetes, cystic fibrosis and Parkinson's Disease. (Pera et al, 2004) The bodies specialised cells, a product of stem cell differentiation, cannot be replaced through natural regeneration. The further exploration of ES cell research will allow scientists
to harness stem cell differentiation and compensate for the bodies inability to regenerate specialised cells. (Fuchs, 2008) For example, ES cells hold the potential to regenerate the spinal cord. Common and debilitating injuries to the spinal cord result in paralysis, more accurately known as paraplegia and quadriplegia. ES cells
may be used to repair an impaired spinal cord, restoring movement and quality of life to those suffering from paralysis. (Rosenfeld et al, 2004) The prospects for regenerative spinal cord repair is one of the many positive outcomes of ES cell research if exploration is allowed to continue.
Ethicists often advocate for the use of human embryos in ES cell research due to their fate after successful IVF
treatment. With the successful fertilisation of an IVF patient, remaining embryos that...