Stem Cells are the centre point for all growth and development. The centre point of life. Without them, there would not be humans, animals or even germs. Thanks to them, we can modify and enhance the human body when in its foetal form. The fear that a child will be born with hereditary disease, mutations and disabilities haunts the dreams of people today more than ever. But what if we could guarantee our children could be born disease free and disability free? What if we could remove the gene that would give our children haemophilia? What if we could cure their Parkinson’s disease if they developed it? What if we could modify our children? But what will this mean for mankind? Will this lead to our race’s condemnation or amelioration?
What are stem cells? Every single cell in our bodies comes from a single, original fertilized egg known as the Zygote. This continues to divide, with most of the cells specializing and becoming all the tissues that form the developing foetus. Some of these cells retain the ability to become any type of cell located in the body. They act as a kind of reservoir, one that provides new cells to replace those that are damaged or lost. At the foetal stage of development, they are known as ‘Embryonic Stem Cells.’ These cells are at the heart of the controversy surrounding stem cell research because a human embryo is the source of these cells and often to obtain them, the embryo is terminated or damaged, and the closer the cell is to the embryonic form, the greater the potential to change into any other form of cell. This means that the cell is closer to that crucial stage where nerves develop, meaning it feels pain. What is being terminated is almost a miniature form of the life produced at the end of a nine month cycle.
Scientists all across the globe have predicted, and are continuing to predict, wondrous and spectacular uses and advancements for humans through the use of Human Embryonic Stem Cells (HES cells). The cells have a wide variety of uses, from growing new organs for transplantation to repairing damaged tissue, repairing spinal cord injuries and creating skin replacements for burn victims. Research is ongoing into the use of stem cells to help cure immune disorders or make it all the more possible to rectify genetic diseases. One day in the future, the cells may even be used for mundane problems like hair and tooth replacement. However, HES cells discovery and the prospect of using them in medicine and for research has aroused a great deal of controversy throughout the general public. Even when presented with all the things Stem Cell research has to offer, supporters are met by an endless stream of religious and ethical questions, which require serious consideration: Is it fair, or just, that specific types of research go on, when it involves harvesting cells and then going on to terminate human embryos that are between four and seven days old? How do we know this will not lead to ‘human robots’?