My niece interviewed me yesterday concerning my take on stem cell research. She is writing a paper on the ethical aspects of this research. During our conversation, I decided this would be a good topic for my blog since it is such a controversial subject.
Embryonic stem cell research seems to generate a greater negative response than adult stem cell research.
Religious beliefs appear to be one of the major reasons against embryonic stem cell research. I believe the concern is focused more on “pro-life” considerations than anything else since the creation of a human embryonic stem cell line needs the destruction of a human embryo. For those that believe that human life begins when a sperm cell fertilizes an egg cell to form a single cell, stem cell research violates the sanctity of life and is something akin to murder. People in this camp also believe there are better alternatives including adult stem cell research.
However, researchers that use embryos that were created for, but not used in, in-vitro fertilization argue that many of these cells would be destroyed, so why not use them for research. In the United States alone, it is estimated that nearly 400,000 of these in-vitro embryos are destroyed each year. Australia produces over 70,000 a year and most go unused.
Most medical researchers believe that stem cell research has tremendous potential to help us understand and treat diseases as well as help people suffering from certain conditions. These potential benefits create an even greater urgency among researchers as well as those of us suffering from (or living with) certain diseases or conditions.
There is also renewed interest in umbilical cord blood stem cells. These stem cells could be helpful in treating spinal chord injuries including the potential regeneration of an injured cord.
One benefit to stem cell research is the ability of these cells to grow indefinitely in a lab setting. Another benefit that is being widely publicized today is that these cells can be used to create human tissue (skin, heart, lungs, live, etc.). I recently saw an ABC News report showing lung tissue and skin tissue being grown in a lab that could be used for organ replacements and also skin grafting for burn victims.
So, the controversy continues with both sides digging further in to their trenches (beliefs). Adult stem cell research appears to be more of a common ground (more neutral anyway). Both sides feel more comfortable with this type research. Fortunately, significant strides have been made using adult stem cells in recent years.
I, for one, do not feel uncomfortable supporting a properly regulated and monitored stem cell research program. Of course, I am one of those people with “a dog in the fight.” I am living with an untreatable condition and have a daughter (and possibly a grandson) that carry the mutated DNA.
How do you feel about this subject? Are you “for” or “against” stem cell research, in general? How do you feel about embryonic stem cell research and adult stem cell research? And, more importantly, why do you feel the way you do? I look forward to hearing from you.