Stem Cell Research
Introduction and Overview
Stem cell research, since its inception and widespread recognition as major step forward in medical science has generated as much interest as controversy. These controversies mainly stem from the ethical, moral, religious, political as well as medical grounds. Specifically, those who support the practice base their arguments on the expected benefits that can be derived in the process.
These benefits include prolonging of life, alleviation of human suffering, creation of more job opportunities and advancement in scientific knowledge. The National Institute of Health describes stem cells as ‘unspecialized cells capable of renewing themselves through cell division, sometimes after long periods of inactivity [and can also] be induced to become tissue- or organ-specific cells with special functions’ (p.1). The cells generated can then be used to replace the ones which are worn out or to replace the ones which have been lost.
Benefits and Relevance
Stem cell research is a scientific discovery whose application can greatly enhance the development of man as stipulated by the proponents. The research promotes the concept of re-generative medicine and gene cloning. Medically, the process has been supported based on the profound benefits that it brings to human life. Helpfully, the process can help in enhancement of human life as the cells can be used to repair dented body cells. For instance, human stem cells can be effectively used in to create suitable cells and tissues which physicians used in carrying out therapies that are cell-based. For example, through radiation doctors have used stem cells to manage cancer. This had greatly helped many cancer patients to overcome their pain that they experience. Similarly, doctors have successfully used stem cells to repair the cells which are damaged.
Further, it is possible to grow limbs or vital organs in a medical laboratory, where the research is taking place, and use the same to manage human conditions. These samples can be used to replace the lost ones to cure a given diseases. At the same time, one can get these organs transplanted in his or her body to replace the dead ones. In this case, the patients will have their suffering relived while the experts will get to understand more about the topic more so with respect to the growth of cells in the body.
Stem cell research that are obtained from embryos, adults’ (bone marrow) or cord cells can be used to help a sick person. According to Johnson and Williams these “stem cells are located within the embryo’ (p.4). Since embryos are not yet lack all the characteristic features of a living person, extracting the stem cells from them limits the controversies that may raise from the case. Most physicians argue that stem cell research in this respect is not different from in vitro fertilization.
Stem cells can also be obtained from legally aborted fetus. Since abortion is legal in most states, it makes no sense to throw away the fetus which can be used on both scientific research and alleviation of human suffering. For example, at HopkinsUniversity, scientists have been repotted to have obtained stem cells from aborted fetus. In this case, it is easy to get the samples without generated any public outcry.
At the same time, medically abortion can be safely performed; without registering tragic side effects like infertility, excessive bleeding, trauma and general ill health. However informed consent should be obtained by the researchers and the donors should not be ignorant of the researcher’s intention. According to Murphy it is good to carry out abortion ethically and legally and also learn “how to respond to a subject whose trust in physicians has been ruptured irreparably’ (p.61).
The controversies aside, stem cell research is advantageous as it can spur economic growth and development of a place. There is bound to be improved living standards and benefits that can be derived from scientific discoveries such as patents apart from improved human life. According to Seneca, the process should be encouraged as it leads to development of the scientific research, ‘profound improvements in the quality of life [and] increases in income, jobs, and economic activity’ (p.4)
The socio-economic and scientific benefits of stem cell research and the positive related developments necessitates the need for expansion of the initiative. The researchers , their assistance and other people who are directly or indirectly employed by the research institutions get their income from the process. In this case, stem cell research has created many jobs that help the economy to grow.
Further, the university professors who teach the discipline draw their incomes from the process. Similarly, stem cell research has expanded scientific knowledge which has been applied in treatment of various diseases. Those who apply the technology to treat cancer as well as the hospitals where these medications and therapies take place contribute immensely to the economy through taxes and economic growth. Those who have made scientific discoverers in the filed are also able to earn from the royalties that have been enabled through patents. As such the intellectual property rights have enabled the researchers to claim ownership of their discoverers and earn from it. In this case, stem cell research has expanded economic activities and income to many people.
Further, the proponents of abortion as a way of obtaining the embryonic stem cells argue that the process is duly and diligently done by professionals and thus has very remote chance of failure. At the same time, it is argued that the process promotes advancement of knowledge and research which enhances human development. Additionally, the supporters of stem cell research cite person freedom and choice to abort as exercised by the donors.
Coupled with the laws in most countries which have legalized abortion, the researchers find no mistake in using the aborted fetus to obtain the needed embryonic stem cells since with or without stem cell research; the donors could have still opted to abort. Due to these divergent ethical, medical, political and social issues surrounding stem cell research in relation to abortion, controversy has emerged between the different schools of thought.
The benefits that may accrue to the society are more than the shortcomings. Specifically, Prentice and Saunders observe that “research using adult stem cells continues to yield successful treatments for many human diseases and injuries” (p.1). Since the aim of research is to help advance human life and alleviate suffering, there is need for proactive consolidation of the gains that have been made so far.
Cloning represents another field of stem cell research. By having embryos developed through cloning and later extracting the desired stem cells from the cloned embryos, scientists are able to use the cells to treat a given condition and thus advance human development through research. Due to the possibility of creating genes through cloning, the process needs both political and social support. In the book, Case studies in biomedical research ethics, Murphy describes the issues relating to stem cell research as viewed by different US presidents with president Bush being descried as ‘a supporter of science and technology’ [but also a firm believer that] human life is sacred’ ( p.204).
Some researchers support the use of stem cells obtained from the adults only as the best solution to the ethical and religious issues which have inhibited the excepted rapid application of the process in human development, medically. As a result, the process represents advancement in treatment of human diseases and thus limiting chances of early death.
In the process of carrying out the research, it is possible that the experts may come up with scientific solution to many ailments. The Parkinson disease for example can be managed through the stem cell medicine as well as diabetes and cancerous diseases. However, finding a lasting solution to these ailments and medical conditions lie in the ability of the experts to come up with or develop precise mitigation strategies that can be applied in a wide range of areas. This however can only be possible if the research on stem cell medicine were to continue successfully without any huddles. Through such experiences gained by doctors in Stem cell research , the medical efficiency and the safety of the process would be improved at the same time, the possibility of the process of Stem cell implantation failure and chances of having defective stem cell inserted in the body, are reduced by having cells of the same patient used in his or her treatment
Conclusion and Supportive Stand
From the discussion it is evident that stem cell research is a very positive sceiebtifc process that is both objective and critical support from all people and policy makers. Since the process leads to advancement of human development and saving of life, it is a major breakthrough in medical filed. As a result, I support the stem cell research debate. It is also deduced that to fully understand and appreciate the benefits of Stem Cells research, it is imperative that the success stories in relation to the process be outlined.
The Stem cell researchers may obtain their specimen from the embryos. Scientifically, this is called embryonic stem cell research. To obtain the desired cells, it is therefore necessary that the embryo be destroyed to access the preferred cells. Secondly, the embryonic stem cells can be obtained through cloning. This process is medically described as ‘somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), [a process which involves having] nucleus of an egg removed and replaced by the nucleus from a mature body cell’ (Johnson & Williams, 2004, p.4).
Scientists have also managed to successfully obtain stem cells from adults. The two major areas where these stem cells are obtained are the bone marrows and the umbilical cord. It is recommended that the government and research institutions put in place measures to deal with the issues raised, while the process is allowed to continue, for the benefit of man and alleviation of human suffering.