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Stem Cell Research Pros and Cons

Since I have got a lot of responses for another post on a controversial science that I don't think is controversial, I thought I could do another on stem cell research pros and cons. There are a lot of strong opinions on this subject and I think what is most profound about this particular issue is that it is heavily engrained into politics. And when you have politics meddling around in science you know that there will be a lot of half truths and other fodder innuendo. I wanted to at least set things straight and get right to the facts.

What is Stem Cell Research?

I'm not going to give an overly detailed and scientific overview of what exactly this is. It's just far too complicated for me to go into a post on this. If you want to read something detailed you can check out the following page on Wikipedia.

Essentially a stem cell is something that can be developed into a wide and diverse range of other cells. I guess you could call it a premature cell that will eventually develop into a more complex cell. The science really took off when science realized that if you placed a stem cell around some other cells, it would develop into the cells you put it around.

This may seem like a bunch of science talk, but there are a lot of uses that we can get out of such a cell and I will go into them in my stem cell research pros and cons post.

Pro: Cure Disease, Spinal Cord Injuries, Blindness, etc

The medical applications of stem cells are literally endless. The big problem we have with many conditions is that we can't replicate the cells or grow any that would work in certain areas. I'll just talk about the most popular area, which is the spine. When you have nerve damage in the spine you're pretty much stuck with the results. But with stem cell research we can actually create the cells that make up the spinal nerves and fix it. I know we're not there yet as a science, but this is the potential of what we're looking at.

The same thing is true when we consider blindness. We haven't been able to cure blindness because we haven't been able to create the cells of eye sight. But now with a stem cell we can create them and possibly repair eye sight. There are an endless amount of applications that we could apply stem cells too and some of them are included below:

  • Baldness
  • Blindness
  • Deafness
  • Stroke
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Learning defects
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Missing Teeth
  • Wound healing
  • Bone marrow transplantation (currently exists)
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Crohn's disease
  • Various Cancers
  • Diabetes
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Myocardial infarction
  • And more

This is probably the biggest point of any of the stem cell research pros and cons you could possibly have. There really isn't much more I can say for pros since this is essentially why science has gone into the arena. It is essentially the next evolution on modern medicine and it is quite amazing what they'll be capable of doing.

Cons: Aborted Fetuses

EDIT: I want to point out something about the "aborted fetuses" argument. The best stem cells are found in an embryo that is only 5 days old known as a blastocyst. I'm sure that this fact means no difference to those that oppose it since an embryo is created after fertilization of an egg.

You can still harvest stem cells from an aborted fetus and it has been done. It's just you don't necessarily get the right stem cells or the best that you need.

Abortion is really where stem cell research enters into politics because we're talking about embryonic stem cells. There are other ways to get stem cells though known as adult stem cells. I'm not going to go into detail about how they obtain them, but they don't require the destruction of an embryo, which is the main and only controversy associated with this science.

This is really all the stem cell research pros and cons that I have. On the pro we have ground breaking science and on the con we have a destruction of an embryo. Honestly, I don't have a problem with using embryonic stem cells because we're talking about an abortion here. You might as well put all stem cells to use for the absolutely amazing and powerful science that is being done.

I don't think anyone can really be against stem cell research, just the means of obtaining it. We have the alternative of using adult stem cells, so we shouldn't have a problem. Personally, I think scientists should be using whatever they think is the best for research and creating breakthroughs. I could care less if it comes from an aborted fetus or somewhere else.

Some people might make the con argument of that we're playing God doing this. I don't recognize this argument as I see it as nothing more than a call of the primitive. It is just a rejection call to modern medicine and I can't validate that sort of stupidity.

Edit: I should also point out that the stems cells found in embryos, fetuses and adult stem cells are all different. Capabilities are at the highest with embryos and lowest with adult stem cells.


Anonymous said…
This aborted fetus argument is wrong....
QUESTION: Do you have pet peeves regarding how the public perceives stem cell research?

ANSWER: I have a few.

The first is the myth that human embryonic stem cells come from aborted fetuses. This is nonsense. It’s just not true. These stem cells come from frozen blastocysts (a very early embryo consisting of 150-300 cells) not used in in-vitro fertilization procedures. These cells are going to be discarded, no matter what. End of story. There’s no abortion involved.

Second, people sometimes think stem cell research is just one thing. In fact, the research covers lots of different kinds of stem cells with different properties related to different diseases. No one kind of stem cell can substitute for another. What makes ESCs so special is they can make many kinds of stem cells that we can’t otherwise get in reasonable qualities.

Third, there’s the oft-repeated myth that adult stem cells can do everything. This is completely undocumented and misleading. People have to remember that a collection of press releases doesn’t establish a fact. Just because one or two scientists think something may be true doesn’t necessarily define it as an independently reproducible, consistent, useful finding that forms a correct foundation.

Fourth and most dangerous are the pronouncements by some people that adult stem cells can cure any disease. This has resulted in a proliferation of clinics across the border and around the world that will, for a price, offer unproven therapies. People go to them for help without enough information necessarily to know what they’re getting. These clinics are unregulated. There’s no accountability to make sure they tell the truth. The treatments are so hyped that people are putting their lives at risk. We’re seeing cases of people who have gone to these clinics and come back with real damage.
Anonymous said…
Please take this fact into consideration. The only difference between an embryo and a newborn baby is time. That's it. If it were an "unfertilized egg" I wouldn't have a problem with it. As far as adult stem cells,Lupus, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, Crohn's disease and diabetes are among the ailments that have been successfully treated with non-embryonic stem cells. What we have is a difference of opinion when human life begins. For me it is at conception. For you it is not. I respect your right to disagree and state your opinion. The results for two young American women, Susan Fajt, from Austin, Texas, and Laura Dominguez, from San Antonio, who received transplants from their own stem cells from the olfactory tissue between the nose and brain. They were transplanted to the location of the injuries these women suffered to their spinal cords. Fajt was paralyzed in her lower body and Dominguez from the neck down. Both were in car accidents. The results: They are now both walking with braces.
Anonymous said…
Thanks for the details. I have a few different thoughts that is different from your viewpoint. Well first of all, by allowing stem cell research, we are opening up an opportunity for scientists to use embryonic stem cell resarch. (which is viewed as unethical to millions of people because the embryonic cells are destroyed, and causes the baby to die, which in some cases is also considereed murdr)Not only this, but also what would happen if the stem cell research fell into the wrong hands, There have been numerous hypothesis concerning stem cell use in cloning.Could the research be misused in the future or not? For example, study of atoms, it led to atomic bombs which did not end up well. We simply do not know. All knowledge acquired, within research or other areas, may be used for evil causes in the future - it is impossible to know.
On the other side, their are some very nice benefits in allowing the stem cell research. If a baby is going to be aborted, why not use it for medical and scientific purposes rather just throwing its life away? And for all we know, stem cells may be the long lost cure for cancer we were searching for hundreds of years.
So their are many sides to this debate. Still it is uncertain how it will end up in the end. But I think that governmnet's main priority is to provide a safe enviornment for us, which means, that we shouldnt allow stem cell research.
Thomas said…
The comments about adult stem cells versus embryonic are not true. I believe the commenter is either unaware of advances in this areas or wishes to ignore them. Adult stem cells can be de-differentiated and have the capability to be directed toward as many cell types as embryonic stem cells. So that argument doesn't hold scientific credibility. The question is - what definition does everyone use for life? Some say conception, others believe it is OK to abort a fully viable baby as in partial birth abortions. So the issue is a moral one. Given that, should be work with adult cells that pose no ethical problem and have the same, if not greater, potential for disease treatment?

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