Stem cells have the ability to transform into any kind of cell. These cells can divide and also replenish other cells in the body, such as muscle cells, brain cells, red blood cells, or they may just simply remain as stem cells. Stem cells are able to replicate even after long periods of dormancy. They naturally repair damaged tissues and can be experimentally induced to work with particular tissues and organs (NIH, 2013).
There are three types of stem cells. Embryonic stem cells which are taken from a fertilized egg, somatic stem cells are fully matured cells taken from an adult, and the more recently founded pluripotent stem cells which are those that can be induced through ...view middle of the document...
The Bush administration revoked Clinton's decision, and then restricted the use of federal funds for any matter regarding stem cell research. Once President Obama took office, he reversed the decision again, allowing federal funding. Interest groups opposing stem cell research, then filed suit to obstruct Obama's policy (Fox, 2011). The issue is a continuous battle of ethical principles.
Advocates want to see legislation passed that would permanently allow funding because private funding is hard to access and not a substantial amount to support the research. The opposition continues to battle embryonic stem cell research, mostly due to religious beliefs. The Vatican invested one million dollars in 2010 to promote adult stem cell research, because it does not require the destruction of human embryos (America, 2011). Legislation may be passed eventually if it
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dictated against the use of human embryos, but the opposition continues to fear that they would still be used in hidden experimentation.
The largest concern revolves around the question of whether an embryo is an actual person or not. Some believe that embryos are people from the point of fertilization, and by destroying them through the removal of their stem cells it is essentially the same as murder. Others do not believe that an embryo is a person, but rather given the appropriate environment it will thrive and become a person. To date, there is no definite scientific answer as to the exact time of ensoulment or personhood (Seigel,2008). The answer can only be debated in theory.
In the beginning of stem cell research, cells were taken directly from unplanted embryos of in-vitro fertilization procedures, or from aborted fetuses. As research became more common, scientists realized that they could create their own embryos from stem cells. Those in opposition feel that if it were not immoral enough to destroy embryos left over from IVF, now they were creating life for the sole purpose of destroying it (Reaves, 2001).
It is possible to use adult "somatic" stem cells in research, but adult stem cells are not as adaptable as embryonic stem cells. Adult cells do not replicate as quickly as younger cells. Therefore, experimentation not only takes longer, but could produce invalid
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results (Reaves, 2001). According to those in opposition, adult stem cell research is the only way because it is most ethical.
Those against stem cell research compare it to that of "what Nazi doctors did during World War II" (Reaves, 2001). They believe scientists are playing God. Many are probably afraid of the "slippery slope" in believing that stem cell research could lead to the manipulating the gender and other physical characteristics of an embryo. Furthermore, there is the possibility that human cloning might lead to creating children for the sole purpose of having spare organs and other body parts, if needed for another (Reaves, 2001).