The topic of stem cell research has made headlines and been under a heated debate from opposing and pro sides, but have you ever asked yourself, “What’s the big deal anyways?”
If so, I am here to answer this question.
Stem cell research is an area of modern biology where embryonic cells are used for scientific exploration. The main controversy surrounding them is related to pro-life advocates, who argue that embryos are life because they come from the center of a blastocyst — a fertilized egg four days after conception.
Embryos are in fact the cells being researched, because their cells are not yet specialized and can perform nearly any cell function if programmed to do so. Thus, an enormous debate between pro-life advocates and scientific geniuses emerges.
But I am not here to debate whether or not researching an embryo is violating the sanctity of life. Rather, I wish to inform you of the purposes stem cells may serve if this field is given more research funding.
Human embryonic stem cells could potentially be used to control faulty cell division. Abnormal cell division is the cause of cancers and birth defects. Using stem cell research, scientists could come up with a method to either control or cease these abnormal processes. There is so much talk about whether or not someone will find a cure for cancer, but the fact is, the cure may have been within our grasp this whole time.
Human stem cells may also be used to test new drugs. More research funding would lead to larger access to pluripotent cells, or the cells used for medical testing. This would then allow for drug testing on a variety of cells and perhaps even the emergence of anti-tumor drugs. These results would require tedious analysis, of course, along with a very thorough understanding of cell differentiation.
Most importantly, stem cells could also be used for cell-based therapies, which offer renewable cells that could be used to generate treatments for, among many others, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes or spinal chord injuries. The need for donor organs and tissues is high, with not enough donors to equalize supply and demand. Stem cells may also be the solution to this much-debated problem.
As I said before, I am not here to join the debate revolving around the sanctity of life and whether or not it relates to blastocysts and embryos. I am merely here as an informant.
We are college students, and we are very capable of forming our own opinions. However, before these opinions are formed, the facts should be clearly spelled out. Stem cell research does not come without controversy. It does, however, have great potential for medical breakthroughs.