All living things are made up of cells; most of which have a single function in the body. Contrary to these cells, stem cells are unique and have no specified function. As a result, they have the ability to perform most of the functions performed by the various cell types in the body. The repair of worn-out tissues and body organs is one of the most critical functions of stem cells.
Ethical debates have ensued since the invention of stem cells. The controversy surrounding stem cells revolves around their production, applications and destruction of human embryos associated with the whole procedure. Until in the recent past when the advancements in stem cells research have been developed, embryonic stem cells were thought to bear the greatest potential in treating most of degenerative diseases including diabetes. This has been based on the production of the cells where they are obtained from the innermost masses of embryos at their early stages hence giving them the potential to produce various tissues of the body. Despite the potential intervention of such diseases, there has been a problem in their production due to the procedure used which involves the killing of embryos. This has been the basis of the controversy surrounding the use of stem cells obtained from fertility clinics. Additionally, the production of embryonic stem cells through cell culture has only been successful using mice as host organisms and not any other mammal (Bohlin 1). Even though adult stem cells are not as controversial as embryonic stem cells, they too have probable uncertainties. The adult stem cells have no ethical problems but their controversy comes in on their usefulness as they are universally applied in the body as opposed to the embryonic stem cells. On the other hand, embryonic stem cells have raised a lot of ethical concerns due to the fact they involve the destruction of an embryo during their production. Additionally, the adult stem cells are believed to have the potential of producing desired cells through manipulation of the cells in terms of their proximity to the tissues that have the desired characteristics. However, the problem is that there are no exact leads as to how adult stem cells can be used to produce particular traits. This means that the applications of adult stem cells in medicine in clinics and other industries are mere trials. Similarly, stem cells research has received a lot of opposition from the pro-life movement which believes that an embryo has life and hence, has the right to live. According to members of this movement, destroying a human embryo in the process of producing stem cells is murder and a violation of the right to life of the embryo.
For many years, stem cells have been used in the treatment of cancer and most commonly in patients with leukemia. However, with the development of new stem cell types, many more disease can be cured. Brain damage including stroke which is becoming a common disease, is one of the diseases that have the potential of being cured using the new types of stem cells obtained from the neurons. Diseases associated with brain degeneration could also be treated. Inventions of gene therapy are being used in the treatment of different types of cancer and tumors. These therapies focus on inhibiting the development of stem cancer cells (Bethesda 1). However, trials on the use of stem cells in treating cancer on human are still in progress. Adult stems cells of the umbilical cord blood have as well been applied in treating spinal cord injuries. However, the establishment of communication between transplanted stem cells and the neighboring cells has not been fully developed. As a result, trials on chicken are already underway to provide adequate proof of this concept. A number of fertility clinics have proven the effectiveness and safety of treating heart related injuries using adult stem cells. The basis of this treatment is to facilitate the development of heart muscle cells and increase development of blood vessels to the damaged tissues.
Contrary to President Bush who had imposed restrictions on stem cells research, President Obama has supported the research by reversing earlier restrictions which had banned the use of federal funds on stem cells research. This move by Obama is intended to improve science in America and most importantly, to develop the treatment of certain diseases and conditions. In fact, clinical trials on embryonic stem cells are already ongoing under Obama’s order (Lite 1). This move by Obama has been very significant to scientists who had received a big blow following Bush’s burn of the research. As he signed the approval for the research, Obama maintained that we should work towards relieving human suffering and hence we should use this great opportunity.
With the increasing advancements in technology, clinical procedures are being affected greatly and this includes processes involving transplants and genetic engineering. Despite many ethical issues being raised on stem cells research, its positive impacts overweighs the negative especially on its potential to cure many diseases and conditions which would have, otherwise, not been treated.
Bethesda Maryland. “Stem cell information”. 2010. Web.
Bohlin, Ray. “The controversy over stem cell research”. 2004. Web.
Lite, Jordan. “Obama ends embryonic stem cell research ban”. 2009. Web.