Stem Cell Research Term Paper

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Stem Cell Research

This work discusses the history and technology surrounding stem cell research. It then goes on to discuss some of the many ethical and moral considerations surrounding it. The ethical debate that has ensued as a result of stem cell research is in fact a paradox that allows some life to be destroyed for the potential of saving or betting other lives. The work will then close with a brief discussion about why stem cell research should be controlled by the government in a very specialized way that speaks to the research itself and its potentials rather than in a very strict and general manner.

Origin and History of Stem Cell Research

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The origin of stem-cell technology lies far back into history, just after the turn of the 20th century in 1908 a Russian scientist, Alexander Maksimov proposed the term "stem cell" as a scientific term, to differentiate the cells of the human body that seem to begin as one thing and then turn into very specialized cells that comprise a complex human body. This terminology as well as a greater understanding of hematology in general did not begin to come on to the radar again until much later, when in the 1980s 90s and early 2000s the scientific world began to seriously consider how undifferentiated cells could or would become highly specialized cells to create organs, tissue and bones. Interestingly enough they to some degree had to go back to Maksimov to better understand his theories of hematology as well and "hematopoiesis, a theory upon which our present concept of blood cells' origin and differentiation is based," (Townsend, 2008, p. 36). In the 1960s a Joseph Altman and Gopal Das provided the world with research that demonstrated that stem cell production was ongoing, at least in the brain, (Townsend, 2008, p. 36) but research into the specific differentiation processes of each cell type and group is a painstaking process, yet a process that is considered by most to be a fundamentally groundbreaking process of discovery.

Term Paper on Stem Cell Research This Work Discusses the Assignment

The process of discovery is beginning to explain how it is a human two cell zygote to a fully developed human body with all the organs cells and tissues needed to sustain life. It is believed and to some degree has been proven that these various types of stem-cells can differentiate in different ways to produce or even re-grow essential damaged tissues, even possibly for the donor his or herself. The first real scientific discoveries associated with the application of stem cells in any kind of treatment started in the 1970s when certain types of testicular cancer cells were identified as stem cells, yet the research was abandoned because the cells did not contain the correct chromosomes because of their nature as cancer cells. (Campbell & Farrell, 2009, p. 747) to gain a better understanding of stem cells one must understand that various types of stem cells exist, with varied abilities to pro-generate into different other cells and the further these cells get from the embryonic stage of development the more differentiated they become and the less likely they are able to produce all cell types or to reproduce more stem cells. (Campbell & Farrell, 2009, p. 747) as recently as 2007 several groups of scientists also recorded research success in developing pluripotent stem cells, that can derive into any type of cell, similarly to embryonic stem cells, from human skin cells. The basic and grand ideation of all stem cell research is to create research pathways that would be able to cure major and minor diseases and injuries that plague human kind. Some of the disease state that are hopeful areas of inquiry include, brain and spinal cord injuries, certain cancers, failing diseased or injured human organs, Alzheimer's disease and several others, that would benefit from regeneration of healthy cells where cells have been damaged or destroyed by accident or disease, as when pluripotent stem cells are placed with other cell types they become those cell types and previously many types of human cells have been proven not to regenerate or heal on their own. (Campbell & Farrell, 2009, p. 747)

The Controversy

The fact that the most valuable type of stem cell is derived from an embryo is why so much research has been done surrounding embryonic stem cells, and why to a large degree there is so much controversy regarding stem cell research. The controversy is that using human embryonic cells in some people's eyes could potentially extinguish a potential human life. Robertson outlines the opposing camps in this debate very succinctly, stressing that each camp has merit on an ethical note:

On one side are persons who think that a fertilized egg in the laboratory is a new human being or individual with all the rights and moral and legal status of fully born persons. They see destruction of embryos, like abortion of fetuses, as murder -- as a sacrifice of the weakest among us for the interests of others.5 They oppose destroying embryos to obtain stem cells even if those embryos will be discarded because they are no longer wanted by the couples who produced them to treat infertility. The other side sees the embryo as too rudimentary in development to have interests or rights, and thus should not be protected at the cost of legitimate and important scientific research. To take this position they need not agree on the point at which fetuses develop the neurologic capacity to feel pain and be sentient. To them it is clear enough that unimplanted embryos, which are a collection of undifferentiated cells, lack the physical characteristics to have the attributes which they view as essential for moral status. However, they are willing to acknowledge that embryos have status greater than other tissue because of the chance that they could implant and come to term, and thus deserve special respect. (Robertson, 2010, p. 192)

Additionally, many look at the basics of the technology and stress that the ability to create any type of human cell also makes it possible to create a whole human life, that would be human engineered, something that does not sit well with many people. Seeking alternatives to the limited cell lines, imposed by legal controls in the Bush era some researchers have looked toward other types of cells, i.e. adult cells, currently derived from skin cells to try to recreate the pluripotent cells and they have had significant success titling them induced pluripotent stem cells or iPS cells, and thinking they would answer many of the moral and ethical concerns regarding stem cells, yet the fact that they are derived from skin cells, a plentiful product of the body and could potentially be used to develop human gametes (reproductive cells) has created similar controversy and called the scientific community to account for the potential of futuristic scientific endeavors. (Lehrman, 2010)

Discussion

The Stem Cell Paradox and Ethical Moral Dilemmas

The controversy stems from the paradox of the possibilities of stem cells as in one instance you must destroy potential life (that of an embryo) to regenerate other life. Additionally the potential to create an entire human life (though this is far into the future) that is not derived by natural means demonstrates what many believe is beyond or should be beyond the human capacity. Without the controls of nature or in some belief systems God, humans should not be able to produce life. The paradox is then that stem cell technology could improve or even save the lives of many millions of people in the future, and yet to get to the place where this is possible some life must be destroyed. Historically, Science, like many other entities has been largely self-regulated by a myriad of networks as well as simply by the scientists themselves and yet there are always cases where science does not do a good enough job policing themselves and needs the introduction of public policy to keep controls on ethical and moral actions in the name of science. A secondary paradox regarding stem cell research is that the research will continue to be conducted, regardless of its local and the current U.S. ban on stem cell research and even the Bush era legal restriction have placed the U.S. At an extreme disadvantage to other nations that continue to fund and control stem cell research, with the ultimate goals in mind. (Townsend, 2009)

In the minds of many stem cell research is the ultimate example of this need for ethical and more controls, including policy and lawmaking. Though many would take a looser stance than the Bush era laws, public policy has with regard to this emerging science the need to help the scientific community put controls on the ethical standards of live tissue sampling is still evident. There should not be a mass generation of life simply to experiment on, any more than there should be allowances for human subjects to endure experiments that are fundamentally harmful to them. (Kaplan NP)… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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