Stem Cells- The Cell That Can Save Us All Stem cells are undifferentiated biological cells that can differentiate into specialized cells and can divide to produce more stem cells. Undifferentiated means it is not a specific cell, like a kidney or brain cell for example, meaning the stem cell can be stimulated to differentiate into any cell in the human body. Stem cells can be harvested in a number of different ways. In 1998, researchers at the University of Wisconsin made a breakthrough and developed a technique to isolate and grow human embryonic stem cells. Most embryonic stem cells are derived from embryos that develop from eggs that have been fertilized in vitro, meaning in a lab, and then donated for research purposes with informed consent of the donors. They are not derived from eggs fertilized in a woman's body. Growing cells in the laboratory is known as cell culture. Embryonic stem cells are generated by transferring cells from a preimplantation-stage embryo into a plastic laboratory culture dish that contains a nutrient broth known as culture medium. The cells divide and spread over the surface of the dish. The embryonic stem cells are placed over a layer of cells that do not divide. This coating layer of cells is called a feeder layer. Also, the feeder cells release nutrients into the culture medium. The process of generating an embryonic stem cell line is somewhat inefficient, so lines are not produced each time cells from the embryo are placed into a culture dish. However, if the plated cells survive, divide and multiply enough to crowd the dish, they are removed gently and plated into several fresh culture dishes. The process of re-plating or subculturing the cells is repeated many times and for many months. Each cycle of subculturing the cells is referred to as a passage. Once the cell line is established, the original cells yield millions of embryonic stem cells. Embryonic stem cells that have proliferated in cell culture for a prolonged period of time without differentiating and pluripotent are referred to as an embryonic stem cell line. At any stage in the process, batches of cells can be frozen and shipped to other laboratories for further culture and experimentation (NIH, 2014). Harvesting stem cells in this manner is the best way to extract them from human embryos which, however, in turn destroys the embryo. The benefit of extracting stem cells from embryos is that it yields embryonic stem cells which are totipotent cells meaning they can become any cell in the body. Those cells can then be used as treatment for physical trauma, degenerative conditions, and genetic diseases. Everyday researchers are coming closer to discovering techniques to extract stem cells from embryos without destroying the embryo. With more funding towards this research, researchers may be able to achieve this goal faster and then be able to use those stem cells to treat diseases. Researching these stem cells will be beneficial for human advancement and is not unconstitutional.
Some critics of embryonic stem cell research believe that it has not been proven to be an effective treatment for any disease. Not one person has been cured due to the use of embryonic stem cells. In 2004 and 2005, Science published two papers by Hwang Woo-suk, a South Korean scientist. He claimed that he had successfully isolated human embryonic stem cells. Korea printed stamps in his honor and he was seen as an international celebrity. But he was a fraud, his results were bogus and he had obtained human eggs unethically (Cook, 2014). They claim that researchers have made the promise of these “miracle” cells that can cure any disease, however no evidence that they can be used has been discovered. Due to the ease of changing embryonic stem cells into other cells, many trials in animals have only created cancerous tumors instead of helping. They say we have seen no results for the claimed