Millions of people die every year from diseases, accidents, and defects, one only needs to turn on the nightly news to hear of the devastating effects of cancer or of horrific accidents that have left people disfigured or paralyzed. Stem cell research is a part of biomedical science that has the potential to cure diseases and defects, create organs for patients needing transplants, regenerate axons in spinal cord injuries, and create new treatments, drugs, and immunizations. However, federal funding is limited and does not cover embryonic stem cell research to an extent that would make a difference in medicine. The United States should support embryonic stem cell research by increasing federal funding, opening new stem cell lines for research, and educating the public on its medical benefits.
Stem cell research began in 1956 when Dr. E Donnall Thomas performed the first bone marrow transplant (“Adult stem cells are not more promising,” 2007, p. 3). Since that time research has evolved into obtaining cells from a variety of tissues. According to stem cell research professors at National University of Singapore, Bongso and Lee (2005) in their book Stem cells: From bench to bedside, “Stem cells are unspecialized cells in the human body that are capable of becoming cells, each with new specialized functions” (p. 2). Stem cells are located in various adult tissues, such as bone marrow, the liver, the epidermis layer of skin, the central nervous system, eyes and in other sources, such as fetuses, umbilical cords, placentas, embryos, and induced pluripotent stem cells (cells from adult tissues that have been reprogrammed to pluripotency). Most stem cells offer multipotent cells, which are sparse and give rise to a limited number of other tissues. However, pluripotent cells offer large amounts of cells, and each one of these cells can potentially form over 200 cell types (Deem, 2009, p. 1-2).
Embryonic stem cells (hESC) are pluripotent. They are obtained from the inner mass of a 5-6 day old human blastocyst that consists of approximately 100 cells (Bongso & Lee, 2005, p. 3).
The way that hESCs are obtained has given rise to political and religious controversy, which has hindered the progression of all stem cell research and has left potential social benefits for our society undiscovered. Federal funding of hESC research might allow for more stem cell lines to be allocated and could provide enough money to fill the gap of state and private funding. Social benefits, such as easing the suffering of those afflicted with defects, organ failures, and accident victims, combined with a reduction of hospital costs associated with these afflictions, would increase the standard of living and place more money back into the pockets of Americans. However, until compromises can be made between supporters and opponents of this research, no headway will be made.
Many opponents argue that life begins at the moment of fertilization. They believe...