Before anyone gets too highly emotional on the raging issue of stem cell research owing to its ethical considerations, it is still best for everyone to have a balanced and objective view of what this type of science can actually do to humankind.
Stem cell research is a technology that takes human cells and develops them into most any of the 200 varieties of cells in the human body, including blood cells and brain cells.
Since its scientific breakthrough in 1998, there are hopes that the research could result to the possibility of treating heart disease, diabetes and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. In other countries, stem cell research indicates that it can also be used for combating old age or for treating some skin disorders, other issues such as sleep disorders might be cured as well.
Here are several breakthroughs in stem cell research that humanity can possibly benefit:
1) Embryonic stem cell research using adult and embryonic stem cells has yielded promising results for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease and diabetes. Research also shows that this is critical to understanding the causes of disease like cancer.
2) Embryonic stem cell research is also considered ‘the threshold of cloning’. There are already several scientists who have started testing about this and may end up successful if research will continue with enough support from government.
Those that have simple understanding of the science explain that stem cell treatment is like a microscopic organ transplant. When injected to the body, the cells will travel to damaged tissue and replace or repair it. Several of these illnesses aside from the ones mentioned earlier that can be treated are spinal cord injuries.
But these developments are still a long way off. What is important to remember is that possibilities of stem cell treatment are high. It is also important to note that so far adult stem cells are the ones being tested that have helped patients. The Embryonic stem cell research has not yet helped a single patient anywhere in the world.
Human embryos are one of the sources of stem cell research which also have become the center of debate due to ethical reasons. There are three sources of embryos: those that are left of invitro fertilization treatment, embryos from donor eggs and sperm which are created in laboratories, and the embryos which are cloned from somatic (body cells).
Some scientists regard frozen IVF embryos as a useful tool for investigating the mysteries of embryo development and mechanisms of genetic diseases. However, at this stage it is unlikely that can be used for cures because the stem cells will not have the same genetic make-up as the patients and will be rejected without using anti-rejection drugs.
So the preferred option is to create new embryos via nuclear somatic transfer. This is the same method used to clone Dolly the sheep. IN this case, human embryos will be deliberately created for the sole purpose of extracting their stem cells, a procedure which is also called as “therapeutic cloning.”
But this is where the ethics and morality come into play as there are issues relating to how to produce “embryo farms” on an industrial scale. Eggs are scarce and expensive because few women will want to experience the pain, inconvenience and physical risk involve in harvesting eggs.
This could also be exploited against poor women who would be willing to “sell” themselves in the experiment. “Therapeutic cloning” is initially opposed by feminist movements.
In lieu of such difficulty, scientists are now thinking of creating hybrid cow-human or rabbit-human embryos with animal eggs.