Sunday, April 18, 2010

From This...

Here's an essay I started to work on. This is the first draft (and yes I know its absolutely terrible and not very persuasive at ALL).

Stem cells are a key component to what will be the future, our future, of medicine. Often times we overlook the options they offer us in terms of a cure, but more and more often people are finding that their doctors may suggest Stem Cells (if only for a clinical trial). Although stem cells show a lot of promise they also hold their fair share of controversy. One of the most common would be the fact that many people believe that embryonic stem cells (cells taken from human embryos) are unethical, even murder because they destroy the embryo. On the other hand many people do not believe that it's unethical because the embryo is simply a cell without a brain or even nerves. Stem cell research suggests that embryonic stem cells have the best potential to be a cure althouh semi-pluripotent adult stem cells are also proving to be usefull and might be just as useful as ebryonic cells and also much easier to harvest as well as having much less controversy.
There are a few things that cause people to think negatively towards stem cells. One of the largest being religion, many believe that it is murder. With all the differing opinions on this topic its hard to decide which is the correct one. Not only does the conflict cause so many uproars in the religious community but in the political as well. Stem cells offer such a large possibility for medical research that could help so many people and treat thousands of diseases that the government is obviously interested in providing financial support. However because of the many differing oppinions and possible religious controversy it is difficult for them to make a decission.
Before you can make a decision on whether or not embryonic stem cells are ethical or not its important to understand how stem cells work. Stem cells are cells that don't have a specific purpose yet. When an embryo is formed it is made up of cells that can continuously divide until they form specific cells like a liver cell, then some skin cells, etc until a whole person is formed. These are embryonic cells, they are harvested directly from the embryo, the ethical drawback of this is that it destroys the embryo, however they can become any sort of cell. Adult stem cells are stem cells that are taken from any cell, like a skin cell, meaning they are much easier to harvest and have no controversy. The drawback with these is that they can't become anything, they can only become new skin cells. This is where semi-pluripotent adult stem cells come in. They are cells taken from any sort of cell, like a skin cell, but they can be reversed to their stem cell state, allowing them to become any sort of cell and they also don't harm anything. There is little research on them and they still have a long ways to go before they are ready to be used in a medical setting. In clinical trails they have been shown to work quite effectively. In one case in a 52 year old woman in a Northwestern University study she was cured of her Rheumatoid Arthritis when donated stem cells from her sister were injected into her bone marrow. The stem cells soon replaced her old cells that were producing rheumatoid arthritis blood cells and began to create healthy ones. After a year and a half she was off all of her old medication and was living a perfectly healthy normal life.
Embryonic stem cells can also be used for various uses and show great promise because they are so young and elastic. Some researchers believe that embryonic stem cells are better than even semi-pluripotent cells because they are younger, often times because semi-pluripotent cells are older they can become brittle after being manipulated so much. They also have much more possibilities because they have had extended research time where as semi-pluripotent cells are much newer and have had less time to be researched. For a brief time during president Bush's term in office he placed a limit on embryonic stem cell research on only new stem cell lines but continued it for already existing lines because he believed embryonic stem cells were unethical. Recently though, president Obama has lifted those funding limits.
Another facet to the stem cell debate is expenses. Depending on the kind of stem cell they can cause different expenses. Although the actual research financing is similar it costs various amounts of money, for example an embryonic stem cell requires that you have to remove the embryo and then extract the cells while removing a skin cell for an adult cell is quite simple. Then to make a semi-pluripotent stem cell it can cost more to return the adult cell to its stem cell state. Embryonic stem cells though have by far the highest cost, not only monetary but in health risks as well. In order to treat a disease that requires an embryonic stem cell you need to harvest an egg from a woman. In order to glean enough eggs from a woman she would need to undergo superovulation treatments that not only cost a lot of many but also put the woman at risk. It would cost a lot of money for the eggs and could potentially lead to poorer women being taken advantage of to harvest their eggs. This is only some of the costs incurred with in vitro fertilization. The other method for getting stem cells is from aborted fetus' which just adds a whole other ethical dimension to the problem.
As far as funding the research on embryonic stem cells it is not the private industries it is actually the government who is the major provider for it. Private industries have been mostly supporting adult stem cell research because it is cheaper, and has fewer risks and involves less people who could be possible harmed. This means that taxpayers are left supporting the bill for federally funded embryonic stem cell research when it might not even be that great of a research option.
This leaves us with the three types of sources that could potentially be used to get stem cells: embryos, bone marrow cells, and umbilical cord cells. The bone marrow cells are where the adult stem cells are most commonly taken from, and the cord cells are some what of a cross between the two. The drawback of adult stem cells taken from bone marrow is that there is a slight risk to the donor during the bone marrow removal process and there is a chance of diseases being transfered from donor to recipient, as well as there is the possibility that they might not be able to become any sort of tissue. Cord cells have proved to be quite elastic and have proven to become many types of tissue and there is hope that they will be able to become any sort of cell. They are also simple to harvest and there is no danger to the donor and there have been few cases of diseases being transfered. Out of the clinical trials with cord blood, there is a seventy percent survival rate among adult patients. The results on children are even better, more than eighty percent of child patients have been successfully treated with cord cells.
Overall, the scientific and moral research all seem to point to the fact that, while the ethical dilemma presented by embryonic stem cells may be based purely on opinion, the scientific and cost efficiency of using other sources other than embryos seems to be the most practical step forward. Embryonic stem cells cause an uproar in the religious community among others as well simply because there is no way to be sure that it is ethical to harm an embryo. Cord blood has proven to be an effective and ethical, as well as financially feasible source for stem cells and should be encouraged to expand its research in the future.

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