ABSTRACT Stem cells and stem cell research has the potential to revolutionize modern medicine. It has potential to treat an assortment of serious and even terminal diseases.
Stem cells are unique among other cells because they are not specialized and can adapt and become what cells they are exposed to. While the potentials of stem cell research is quite high, it is still deemed a controversial science discipline. Until recently American scientists were limited on what research they could do, but that has recently changed. Regardless there are those who support stem cell research and there are others who completely denounce the applications of stem cell research. Stem cell therapies could replace many of today’s procedures. It could aid people without the need of invasive surgeries and consuming a lifetime of prescribed medications.
Stem cells will likely be the core of medicine in the future; a future where conditions, diseases and injuries are treated differently and better with stem cell therapies.INTRODUCTION Science and technology has revolutionized every industry and aspects of life. There have been innovations and wonders in the field of medicine that has allowed for many life saving and life altering procedures, like organ transplants, advancements in prosthetic limbs and many medications that allow people to live more normal lives. One of these many amazing discoveries with the greatest potential are stem cells and the research into their uses. Stem cell research has the potential to change medicine and what procedures are performed.
In fact, the many different uses and applications of stem cell research could be the most important thing to medicine since the beginning of modern medicine. However, all of this potential is well enough, but not everyone is eager to allow for stem cell research. It is highly controversial. Many feel that stem cell research should not be pursued more for ethical reasons than medical or scientific ones. However, there are many more that are eager to embrace the values of stem cell research and consider them to outweigh their negative elements.
After reviewing the available information it becomes clear that stem cell research, while controversial, does have huge potential and research into those potentials is a worthwhile endeavor. BACKGROUND Stem cells are unique cells. Since they were first identified decades ago the knowledge of their potential has continued to grow. There are two types of stem cells that exist in the body. Embryonic stem cells, which are sourced from fetal tissue, and are highly versatile. Adult stem cells are less versatile, but can be beneficial on a number of levels.
As seen in the diagram in the right, stem cells do not look like other cells found in the body. There are three ways that stem cells differ from all other cells is the body (United States Library of Medicine).They can divide and remain viable over a long period of time.They cannot do any specific functions when they are not specialized.These cells are not assigned a type of cell; it is essentially a blank slate. Stem cells can become whatever specific cells are needed in the body, like liver cells and brain cells.
DISCUSSION The reality is that stem cells have a great deal of potential application in a number of ways. Today most illness, diseases and injuries will involve a great deal of invasive surgeries, long term medications and a number of other unpleasant and uncertain treatments. Sometimes these treatments are successful and people live long healthy lives. However, no modern medical treatment is 100% guaranteed; there are always some risk (National Institutes of Health). That being said stem cell research has the potential to treat many conditions with a much higher than average success rate, depending on the specific procedure.
There are a number of conditions that have already been deemed a priority consideration. Parkinson’s Disease: Parkinson’s is a progressive and debilitating disease. It is a degenerative condition that affects the basal ganglia in the brain and leads to a deficiency of dopamine, an important neurotransmitter. It affects the nervous system and causes tremors and muscular rigidity. If stem cell therapies could be applied to this condition it is hoped that it would help to produce healthier cells and aid in treating the symptoms (United States Library of Medicine). Spinal Cord Injuries: The spinal cord is the major column of nerve tissues and connects the brain.
Spinal cord injuries can lead to nerve damage and, very often, cases of paralysis. Most people who suffer serious spinal cord injuries will struggle the rest of their lives. Stem cells could become spinal cord cells and repair the damage done (United States Library of Medicine).Alzheimer’s Disease: This condition is due to degeneration and shrinking of the brain. This progressive condition will worsen over time.
It presents as severe dementia and a loss of memories. Stem cells could slow the degeneration of cells and possible restore some good health to the patient (United States Library of Medicine).Schizophrenia: This condition is a long term mental disorder that can cause people to hear voices, experience delusions and unpredictable behaviors. Schizophrenia when untreated will worse over time.
It is believed to have a hereditary genetic component. Stem cells could help to renew cells and overpower the disease cells (United States Library of Medicine).Diabetes: Diabetes is a condition that causes the body to produce too little or no insulin. This can lead to an abnormal metabolism.
Diabetes can affect the heart, circulation and vision if left unaddressed. Stem cells could aid in normalizing the body’s functions and could aid them in repairing the cause of diabetes (United States Library of Medicine).Cancer: Cancer is the multiplication of abnormal cells, Many of these cells are deemed malignant and cancer can cause the formation of tumors, If untreated cancer will spread throughout the body, ultimately leading to people’s deaths. Stem cells could combat cancer cells and restore cellular health; it could also be used to reverse cancer cells that build tumors (United States Library of Medicine).
While all of the medical benefits may be incredibly compelling for the scientific and medical community, it is not its medicinal applications that are in question. What makes stem cell research so controversial are the ethical issues that surround it (Bobrow, 2005). This has led to two distinct sides on the issue. Those who denounce the science and those who wholeheartedly support stem cell research and use.
In order to understand the two sides of the argument better it is best to discuss them individually. There are many people who believe that stem cell research is simply not a good idea; it will ultimately not be beneficial. Those who feel this have a list of different issues that they feel are serious problems with stem cells and the research regarding them.
Long term side effects are one their greatest worries. While there are many potential stem cells treatments many are reluctant to sing their praises because they question the unforeseen consequences and the long-term side effects that cannot be predicted. They claim that there is no way of ever knowing if stem cell research and application could not have serious and negative effects in the future (United States Library of Medicine).One of the greatest issues with any type of organ, tissues and blood donation, from one person to another, is the possibility of rejection: In the case of embryonic stem cells the cells are coming from a foreign donor there is really no way to know if such procedures will be successful. As with any form of organ or tissue donations there is the possibility of rejection by the recipient. This makes stem cells no more effective than any other form of transplant.
In their eyes the research is simply pointless and counterproductive. Many of those opposed to stem cell research feel that by changing the fate of these people with illnesses in this way they are, in fact, playing “God.” This is especially true when the researcher suggest using stem cells to clone organs or tissues. For many spiritual people these people may be cheating death and this is not something that human beings are supposed to interfere in (United States Library of Medicine).
Some people feel that tampering with the natural order is a very dangerous line to cross. This is the most controversial part of the stem cells debate. Most stem cells are is derived from the use of aborted fetal tissues donated by the women receiving the abortion. Many people feel this is unethical.
For many who consider themselves to be “Pro-Life” they believe that to be desecration of a living, viable human being. As long as embryonic tissue is associated with stem cells it will continue to be controversial (United States Library of Medicine). Many people associate stem cells specifically with fetal tissue. There are other ways to harvest stem cells, but fetal tissue is the most versatile for research purposes, but it seems unlikely that fetuses were ever aborted for the sole purpose of stem cell research.
Those who feel that stem cells have a great deal to offer people are defend the research fervently. They potentially could treat, cure and change people’s relationship with diseases and injury. The purpose is to save lives and improve lives. Regenerative medicine, as mentioned earlier, is an area where there are many applications that stem cells could be applied. They could regenerate damaged or diseased organs.
Medical cloning will allow individual organs to be grown for transplant (California Institute of Regenerative Medicine). Cloning of a full human being is not the goal of current stem cell research. Because of the versatility of stem cells they are less likely to be rejected. The fact is that while stem cells retrieved from donor fetal tissue may have the possibility to be rejected; adult stem cells do not have to be donated. Every adult has stem cells, if their stem cells could be harvested and adapted to heal their bodies, then they become their own donor and the possibility of rejection is eliminated. Since stem cells would allow for the growth of individual samples of human tissue it would allow testing to be conducted on human tissues, which will give much more accurate results.
It would eliminate the need for synthetic and animal testing once and for all (United States Library of Medicine). Again, it is the fetal tissue that makes stem cells research so controversial; however, as mentioned there are adult stem cells that are people carry. Perhaps as the research grows and evolves there will come a point when fetal tissue will no longer be a source for stem cells; other alternatives will have been found.
However, as long as there are so many restrictions on the research it cannot grow and develop (United States Library of Medicine). If people can use their own stem cells then it may be possible to encourage healing and re-growth of damaged or diseased tissues making the need for invasive surgery a thing of the past. It would also eliminate the need for donated organs and tissues. People could essentially self repair (Mahla, 2016).More and more today people are aware of just how greedy and what a money-making industry medicine has become. Healthcare makes its money on treatments not cures.
The more therapies people need the more financially beneficial it is for the medical facility. The pharmaceutical industry also makes billions on the regular medications that are taken for all sorts of ailments, like cancer treatment. However, if people could heal themselves, then they would cease to require costly medication and no longer are beholden to the medical industry (United States Library of Medicine). After looking at the pros and cons of stem cell research it becomes clear that its benefits outweigh the negative. The general public is being misled by the two sided argument. According to one survey, seen left, 65% support stem cell research, 25% are opposed and 18% are undecided.
The reality is that the bulk of the negative warnings and attempts to discredit the research often comes from the medical and pharmaceutical industry. This is because stem cell research will have a horrifying effect on their bank accounts. People will be living healthier and they will be doing it without taking a lifetime of medications and having years of medical procedures (Scott, 2016). That being said it is important that people do their own research and be more discriminating of what information is taken as truth and what are just scare tactics to turn people from considering stem cell therapies.
Currently much of the research into the uses of stem cells in the United States is limited and, sometimes, prohibited. Other nations have a much more relaxed policies and the research they are doing is undeniably promising (White, 2017). If American researchers joined into this research the sooner that people could benefit from all of the innovations that stem cell therapies could bring.
Many researchers are hopeful that in the future stem cells therapies will become commonplace and part of the traditional medicine. Investing in this research could change the lives of those who suffer from illnesses , disease, conditions and life-threatening injuries is ways with far higher likelihood of allowing them to live, with little hindrance and restoring them to good health (Scott, 2014). The future could be an amazing time for modern medicine if stem cell research is allowed to be conducted with restriction. President Obama did lift many of the restrictions on stem cells research, which will allow many of scientific groups and research laboratories to explore stem cells much more closely (White, 2017). As soon as the ethical issues can be resolved the sooner that more time and dedication can be given to understanding stem cells and delving into all the possibilities that they offer people in America and all across the globe.
CONCLUSIONThere are so many health conditions that human beings can suffer from. There are many diseases that will claim human lives. There are injuries so severe that modern medicine cannot cure the issue, but simply treat it continuously.
Stem cell research could change all of that. There will be ways to overcome injury, conditions can be healed and diseases cured, with greater ease and certainty. Stem cell research truly has the potential to change people’s lives. Those who could not walk may take steps, those who could not breathe can breathe easily and children with different health condition can be successfully treated before their conditions or diseases can truly hinder their lives. There really is no end to the possibility that stem cell research may offer. The future could see the acceptance and adoption of stem cell therapies as part of modern medicine.
This will no doubt have a profound effect on the medical and pharmaceutical industries and they will no doubt fight every step of the way not lose their money; sick people mean more money. People would no longer be plagued by so many illnesses, diseases and conditions, they could instead live longer, healthier and fuller lives due to the kind of discoveries that stem cell research could represent. That being said if people want to understand stem cells they should do their own investigations and make their own decisions. In fairness ethical concerns must be considered, but in the meantime the research should be allowed to continue. Stem cells are the medicine of the future; as soon as people are allowed to delve deeper into its possibilities.