Though controversial in nature, the extraction, research, and use of human stem cells has been one of the most significant breakthroughs in modern science. The power within these programmable and adaptable cells promises a brighter future for medical advancement such as freedom for those burdened with diseases and disorders. The evidence and factual support for the use of stem cells conveys the gravity of this prospect.
Stem cells come from a variety of sources. The two main sources are embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells. In recent research, scientists have created induced pluripotent stem cells from adult stem cells. The controversy surrounding stem cell research centers on which stem cells to use in experiments and future treatments. Stem cell type, source, and use will be analyzed to identify the pros and cons of stem cell research.
Embryonic stem cells have a few different sources. The most common source of these cells is from fertility treatments (Teutsch, 2013). In In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF), a woman’s egg is fertilized by donor sperm in the laboratory. The growth of the fertilized egg is cultured in the lab until the day of transfer to the woman’s uterus (Human Fertilization & Embryology Authority, 2011). Transfer to the uterus occurs anywhere from around day 3 to day 6 after fertilization (Center for Reproduction and Infertility, 2011). IVF is a complicated process that doesn’t always have a great success rate. Fertilized eggs in the lab aren’t always transferred to the mother, especially if they don’t appear viable. Sometimes parents decide to freeze the eggs for later, even though the freezing and thawing process kills 50% of the eggs. Embryos commonly die from human error or equipment error, and if parents don’t want to freeze the extra embryos they are thrown away (Robinson, 2009). From the thousands of failed embryos created during the IVF process, several go to waste when they are thrown out.
Scientists have been experimenting with embryonic stem cells for years. Stem cells are totipotent, meaning they can differentiate into all types of human cells. Essentially, they can become whatever scientists successfully induce them to be. However, these cells proliferate rapidly, creating a risk of tumor-like growth. Scientists have had trouble controlling growth in the lab (Center for Genetics and Society). This problem could cause issues if the stem cells were implanted into a person to grow back damaged tissues or organs.
Adult stem cells come from multiple sources when harvested. The cells can be taken from blood, bone marrow, the brain, the pancreas, and fat (Center for Genetics and Society). Although these are adult sources for the cells, a great number of adult stem cells actually come from umbilical cord blood when babies are born. These cells can be donated to research or saved for the baby in case he or she develops diseases later in life (Health Resources and Services Administration). The great benefit of adult stems cell...