Stem Cell Research
Why Is There So Much Controversy?
In introduction, I would like to say that it sounds great does it not. Harvest a few cells; modify them in order to grow a different cell, because stem cells can differentiate into any type cell you need. According to scientists, there is much hope in using stem cells for cures and even in replacing diseased organs, such as the liver, heart, lung, or corneas. There may also be hope of re-growing limbs, as well as curing diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and repairing spinal cord injury, among others. According to then President Bush, “ Research on embryonic stem cells raises profound ethical questions, because extracting the stem cell destroys the embryo and thus destroys its potential for life” (President Bush 2001).
I believe there is promise in stem cell research, even with the moral issues, and I believe there are other alternatives to using embryos. Here is what Explore Stem Cells has to say about a new technique for harvesting stem cells:
Traditionally, embryonic stem cells were harvested by destroying the human embryo in a process called somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). A somatic cell is simply a body cell that is neither an egg nor a sperm cell. In this procedure, the nucleus is removed from a somatic cell and it is then implanted into a donor egg that first had its nucleus removed. The egg cell is essentially fooled into thinking it has been fertilized. It has its own DNA and after stimulation, it divides just as a normally fertilized egg would, before forming an embryo. Cells from the inner cell mass are extracted and cultured to provide embryonic stem cells but the technique destroys the embryo. This process has, of course, generated much debate because the embryo could potentially have become a living person.
ANT, (Altered nuclear transfer) however, prevents an embryo from actually being created. The nucleus of the somatic cell is altered, or genetically reprogrammed, prior to being transferred into the egg. The alteration consequence is that the somatic cell DNA still produces stem cells but does not generate an embryo. (Explore Stem Cells)
There are moral issues involving this controversy. The harvesting of stem cells often involves embryos, which destroy the fetus. There are alternatives to using embryos, such as using adult cells, umbilical cords discarded after babies are born, and from human placentas. There are also animals being used; pigs rabbits, and mice, for example.
. Moreover, many scientists feel research on these types of stem cells is also promising. Treatments developed from adult stem cells help many patients suffering from a range of diseases. If Explore Stem Cells were correct, then the moral controversy would no longer be an issue. President Obama has taken a different stance on the issue than then President Bush.
“Mr. Obama's action, before a packed East Room audience, reverses former President George W. Bush's policy on stem cell research by undoing a 2001 directive that banned federal funding for research into stem lines created after that date.” (Politics.USNews.com)
Apparently, federal money is not to be used for stem cell research, since this judge sends a staggering blow to the Obama administration.
“A federal judge on Monday temporarily blocked government rules expanding stem cell research, a blow to the Obama administration that could stall potentially lifesaving research.” (Huffington Post Aug 2010)
An appeal has been filed by the Justice Department.
“The Department of Justice on Tuesday said it would appeal a U.S. District Court ruling that challenged the legality of the Obama administration's guidelines allowing federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, the New York Times reports (Stolberg/Harris, New York Times, 8/24). A DOJ spokesperson said the department plans to file the appeal by the end of this week, Politico reports.” (Russonello, Politico, 8/24)
Figure 1 Associated Press/Photo by Paul Sancya
In conclusion, to reiterate my thesis statement, which I believe shows there is promise in stem cell research, even with the moral issues, I also believe there are other alternatives to using embryos. If scientists use the ANT, (Altered nuclear transfer) method, there are no further issues. Based on the new method, it makes sense that much good can come of stem cell research.
Works Cited:http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/gwbushstemcell.htm Aug 2010
http://www.explorestemcells.co.uk/NewHarvestingTechniques.html Aug 2010
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/08/23/stem-cell-regulations-tem_n_691738.html Aug 2010
http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/199005.php Aug 2010
http://politics.usnews.com/news/obama/articles/2009/03/09/president-obamas-speech-on-stem-cell-executive-order_print.html Aug 2010