Embryonic stem cell research is one of the most promising, fascinating, and controversial issue in science today. It has generated debate, protest, and most importantly, hope. Federal funding for the stem cell research has strongly been lobbied recently because mainly scientist specialize in this field and many believe that cultivating lines or colonies from these cells will lead to a cure for several diseases like juvenile diabetes, spinal cord damage, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Stem cells are unspecialized cells that can be manipulated into any of the two hundred and twenty types of human cells known. This discovery may help treat numerous patients diagnosed with fatal diseases in the future. These cells can help test experimental drugs, help doctors understand birth defects, and provide essential clues about how the tissues of the body develop and how they take hold. The fact that these cells hold such promise in saving millions of lives is reason enough to continue researching them. Therefore, research on Embryonic Stem Cells should be funded and legalized.
On October 19, 2005, an international stem cell bank has been opened in Seoul, South Korea. This project, which is being guided by Dr. Woo Suk Hwang, will produce and supply new lines of embryonic stem cells for global research. This bank will serve as the main centre for international stem cell research where scientists and experts from various countries such as the U.S and the U.K exchange ideas and work together as a team to find medical cures and treatments for a variety of diseases and disorders using embryonic stem cells. These stem cells can be used to test the safety of new medicines. The initiative, Stem Cells for Safer Medicine, will invest millions in projects aimed at turning human embryonic stem cells into liver tissue. This could then be used early during drug development to weed out harmful compounds. The research could also help reduce the number of animals used to test drugs. It takes more than a decade to research, develop and trial a new drug before it is made available to patients. Many drugs do not make it through this process because at some stage they are found to be harmful the single biggest reason for the failure of a drug during development is that it proves toxic to the human liver. “The liver is a key organ for toxicity because it's the dustbin of the body, it's where all of the compounds we put into our mouths are processed.” (Cotgreave) The development of new drugs requires comprehensive testing of compounds prior to clinical trials. Most of these tests are experimented mainly on mice and thus, may not provide scientists with sufficient information about the reactions of these compounds in cells. “It's a problem area where things can be totally silent pre-clinically in an animal and then, as soon as you go into a patient, you get a reaction.” (Jha) This means that a drug may appear to be safe when tested on mice, but when tested on human subjects, it may appear to be toxic and detrimental. Instead of testing these drugs on mice prior to clinical trials, the compounds can be tested on human cell lines, which is a more effective and safe process than current testing. This is due to the fact that stem cells can be used to create unlimited supply of specialized tissues such as heart tissue, and it would be possible to test the reaction of drugs and medications on these specialized tissues, and thus provide researchers with adequate information about the effectiveness and safety of these compounds. Experimenting drugs on stem cells may reduce or even prevent deaths related to clinical trials. In addition to improving drug development, lab-based tissue cultures could have an impact on the use of animals in research. Routinely using liver cells to test new compounds means that fewer go on to be subsequently tested on animals.
Studies on embryonic stem cell research can