Stem Cell Research
What is a Stem Cell?
Stems cells are immature cells found in embryos that can develop into any kind of specialized cells. They can form virtually any cell of the human body. These types of stem cells are known as pluripotent cells. Multipotent cells are stem cells that are more mature; they can be found in adults and children. Multipotent cells are not as flexible as pluripotent cells, as they have already developed into more specialized human cells.
Benefits of Stem Cells
Benefits of stem cell research can be overwhelming. Today, millions of people around the world suffer from incurable diseases. Stem cell research could help the scientific community find a breakthrough in developing a cure. By observing stem cells develop into mature human tissue, scientists can better understand how embryos develop. “Normal” human development can be recorded. This knowledge can be used to help prevent birth defects, for instance.
Scientists would be able to grow spinal cells from pluripotent stem cells. These cells could possibly repair spinal cord damage. Those afflicted by paralysis, such as Christopher Reeve, could possibly move again. Stem cells could also be used to grow nerve cells, possibly combating Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s. While it will be many years before scientists may actually be able to find a way to combat these diseases, there is a great promise in stem cells.
Because stem cells are essentially a blank slate, scientists are theoretically capable of growing any human tissue cell. There is enormous medical potential in this. Stem cell research is the next step in advancing the medical field. It is comparable to the discovery of penicillin or the inoculation for smallpox.
Currently, the number of organ donors is greatly surpassed by the number of people who need transplants. Many in need of transplants are forced to wait for a donor, some of them never receiving the organs they so desperately need. Stem cells, taken from a cloned embryo of the subject, could be used to grow organs and remedy the organ donation problem. Stem cells from a different embryo could also be used to create organs. If scientists opted to grow an organ from the subject, there would be a much lesser chance of tissue rejection. One of the current problems with organ donation is that the host body rejects the transplant tissue because it is “foreign.” If the organ came from the recipient, it would essentially not be foreign tissue.
Professional, Legal, and Ethical Issues
While there are enormous benefits to stem cell research, many professional, legal, and ethical questions arise about stem cells. Should stem cell researchers continue their research for profit? Or should they continue their research for the benefit of society? Those motivated by personal profits will be more motivated to uncover the most about the benefits of stem cells. However, these same individuals may opt to achieve the end, whatever the means....