Honors American Lit.
28 March 2012
The Power of a Body Lose an arm? Get another!! Need a heart? Plenty to spare!! A world filled with nothing but healthy people, no cancer or missing limbs. How could this be? The answer lies in stem cells and their research. It has been said that stem cell research is unethical, but through this paper it will be shown that it does not matter. The ethical concerns related to stem cell research are insignificant when it has the potential to cure currently incurable diseases, grow organs for transplants, and limbs for amputees, and perhaps many other uses that are currently unknown. It is necessary to know what a stem cell is, the different stem cells types, and where they are harvested.
A stem cell is a cell that has the ability to continuously divide and differentiate (develop) into various other kind(s) of cells and tissues. Like a blank microchip that can ultimately be programmed to perform any one of a number of specialized tasks, stem cells are undifferentiated, ‘blank’ cells that do not yet have a specific physiological function. When the proper conditions occur in the body or in the laboratory, stem cells begin to develop into specialized tissues and organs. Stem cells are also self-sustaining, replicating through cell division. (“Where”)
There are four different types of stem cells to worry about, namely: embryonic stem cells, fetal stem cells, umbilical cord stem cells, and adult stem cells. Another important thing to know is what stem cells are capable of doing. Adult stem cells can only produce the same type of tissue that they are found in. In other words, they replace cells that die and help to restore tissue after it is damaged. An example of this is in bones, every day blood in the body is replenished by blood forming stem cells in bone marrow. Umbilical stem cells are very similar to the stem cells found in bone marrow. Fetal stem cells and embryonic stem cells are also very similar to each other, they can, in theory, produce all the different cells in a body. It would seem that this branch of research would be invaluable in today’s world and that it could be put to use every second of the day, but unfortunately it seems most people have a view against stem cell research. This is probably because they have a narrow view of the research, “only 20 percent of Americans reported following the issue either “very closely” or “fairly closely” (“Public”). More than 80% of Americans are oblivious to stem cell research and its ongoing debate. It is no wonder there is such controversy, as it almost seems like no one cares. When stem cell research is said, the normal person thinks immediately that it is research for cloning humans and that children are killed to pursue this research. Of course they would be opposed to that. In reality, stem cell research is nowhere near that. The research is needed to determine how to turn on the regenerative abilities of stem cells, so that they can be used like some adult stem cells are used now. Today stem cells are used to treat leukemia by placing bone marrow from a healthy patient into the bones of a sick child. No one is considering that unethical or proposing that the science or treatment be stopped. Yes, stem cells can be gathered from the fetuses of aborted babies, but children are not killed to gather them. If parents were already going to get an abortion anyway, why not use that to advance our medical procedures? Furthermore, stem cells can be gathered from more than just the fetus. Embryonic stem cells are harvested from the early stages of a fertilized egg. Fetal stem cells are collected from aborted fetuses and umbilical stem cells are collected from the umbilical cord of a recently born child that used to be discarded. Adult stem cells are found in some of the tissues in the body (“Stem Cells”). Regardless of how the cells are gathered and whether some believe it is ethical or not, stem