Rader 1 Melanie Rader Mr.

Chavez English II Honors – F 22 May 2012 Stem Cell Research: The Future in Medicine There has been groundbreaking research on a miraculous type of cell that has the potential to cure and treat many diseases and medical conditions. This important cell is known as the stem cell. Stem cells are like no other cell in the body because they can be trained to perform like any cell (Cohen 3). Another unique characteristic of stem cells is that they continuously multiply to form new cells (Cohen 10). Research on stem cells has been performed for about 30 years and scientists are slowly beginning to understand how they function and how they can be used in the medical field (Eve et al.). In the United States and in several other major countries of the world, stem cell research is controversial and has become a popular topic of debate (Cohen 4). Many believe that stem cell research is morally wrong, especially because some researchers use stem cells obtained from embryos. But very often people are misinformed or make assumptions without knowing all the facts (Eve et al.; Rhys 1). Although stem cell research is controversial because it may be unpredictable and dangerous, considered immoral by some and violate religious beliefs, stem cell research should be continued because it can be facilitated in a humane way and it has potential benefits. These benefits include the ability to treat several diseases, the ability to regenerate organs and tissue, and the ability to change the medical world for the better. Stem cell research is highly controversial because it can be unpredictable and extremely dangerous. Throughout stem cell research, scientists have come across problems in their

Rader 2 laboratory experiments. Two of the most commonly used types of stem cells are embryonic stem cells and iPs cells, otherwise known as adult stem cells (Eve et al.). One main goal of stem cell scientists is to develop a way for adult stem cells to function the same way embryonic stem cells do (Watson 1). Unfortunately, this has been more complicated than expected. The article “Good Intentions?” reports that researchers at Harvard and the University of Illinois have found iPs cells that are more abnormal and reproduce slower than embryonic cells (1). The article points out that this is cause for concern because with iPs cells, scientists are not able to tell whether complications are caused by a disease or by the irregularities of the cells (1). This can be a setback in stem cell research because lab results would be confusing and unclear. There are also concerns of animal cell contamination during experiments, as mentioned in “Stem-cell Scientists Find Right Chemistry” from the O.C Register (Brennan 4). Cell contamination is detrimental to research because it prevents scientists from observing pure stem cells and how they function. One of the most important issues concerning laboratory experiments, also mentioned in the article from the O.C. Register, is the question of whether stem cells will function correctly if not in a carefully controlled environment (Brennan 5). “Is some of a stem cell‟s transformation guided by the microscopic environment in which it dwells, or is it entirely dictated by the cell‟s internal working?” (Brennan 5). This is a very important question because if the stem cell cannot survive or function properly while in the human body, this would be a major cause for concern among researchers everywhere. As of the time being, scientists have yet to find the answer to this question and further research is needed. Stem cell research is controversial because of the instability and problems regarding adult stem cells. As David Eve discusses in “Stem Cell Research and Health Education,” embryonic stem cells become unstable because they grow exponentially in cultures following their

Rader 3 extraction (Eve et al.). As the stem cells continue to replicate, they become less stable with every reproduction (Eve et al.). When stem cells continue to replicate, they are likely to form tumors and become cancerous (Eve et al.). This is important to know because if a stem cell became cancerous, it would be extremely difficult to treat due to the fact that stem cells reproduce rapidly. While researching stem cells, scientists have discovered that not all altered adult cells forget that they were once a different type of cell (Watson 1). As reported in “Adult Stem Cells Said to „Forget‟ Retooling” by Kathryn Watson, a stem cell biologist named Konrad Hochedlinger and his team found that “adult cells obtained from mice exhibited distinct patterns that could not be erased” (1). This means that the cells are trying to function like embryonic cells, but are failing to forget that they were cells once used for a different purpose. This is dangerous because the cells are confused and function in unpredictable patterns (1). If adult stem cells cannot forget what they were initially programmed to do, they will not be functional to work in the human body and fight disease (1). Problems regarding adult stem cells may be unpredictable, but they can be addressed provided research is continued. Irregular experiment results and stem cell instability can be risky, but they are vital to advancements in medical discoveries. The only way to further scientific knowledge is to experiment. Scientists will never learn how stem cells function if they do not test their theories. The questions and problems raised during scientific experimentation only lead to more theories, and thus additional experiments. It is also important to note that even though experiments may have complications, scientists still learn about the subject and how it works through unexpected results. Though stem cells can be unstable, with further research and experimentation, scientists can find a solution to the problem. Stem cell research should be continued despite the fact that

Rader 4 there are problems with experiments and stem cells because if scientists give up on their research, the world will never know what great medical improvements stem cells can achieve. One of the most controversial aspects of stem cell research is that it is considered immoral and a violation of many religious beliefs. Stem cell research is considered morally wrong by many due to the fact that stem cells are obtained from embryos (Cohen 92). In Cynthia B. Cohen‟s book, Renewing the Stuff of Life: Stem Cells, Ethics, and Public Policy, she addresses religious views on the subject. Cohen writes about Christian beliefs and the religious truths revealed in the Christian holy book. The Bible teaches that the embryo is considered a human being from the time of conception and that it has a right to life (Cohen 92). This means that Christians are against stem cell research because they believe that even the tiniest embryo is a human being and deserves the same rights as a fully grown adult. This is a major moral dispute among religious and secular people and part of the problem is that the general public does not know all the facts about stem cell research. There is a common misconception that in order to obtain the stem cells the embryos must be destroyed (Wilson 1). Due to advanced research, scientists have discovered a way to remove a few stem cells without harming the life of the embryo (1). The article entitled “Offstage, „Ethical‟ Stem-Cell Work Advances,” from The Washington Times, shows an example of scientists at work using the nondestructive method (1). The article explains that Robert Lanza, Advanced Cell Technology‟s chief scientific officer, can take a cell from an embryo without destroying it and then allow it to continue developing (1). With this nondestructive research, Lanza and his team of scientists are working on preventing blindness and have been successful in animal trials (1). This new technique of extracting embryonic stem cells does not violate the Christian beliefs because no life is harmed or

Rader 5 destroyed in the process. This research is conducted in a humane way and is not immoral because the stem cells obtained have the potential to help many people in the near future. Stem cell research is also considered immoral by some because they believe to be a type of cloning (“Scientists Use Cloning to Make Human Stem Cells” 1). Scientists were able to create embryonic stem cells by growing them in unfertilized human egg cells (1). They were trying to prove that using cloning technology could produce cells that match the DNA of a certain patient (1). There is no cause for moral concern because soon after beginning experiments the scientists found that they were unable to make useful cell lines (1). While this method of creating stem cells was unsuccessful, the scientists working on this experiment were able to understand why other methods may have failed (1). It is fortunate that this cloning technique failed because the researchers were able to dodge the questions of morality (1). Since the experiment failed the scientists have given up on this method and they are no longer using any form of cloning to produce stem cell lines (1). Stem cell research is not immoral and it should be continued because the stem cells used for research are obtained in a humane way. Embryonic stem cells used for research are obtained from embryos left over from Invitro Fertilization, or IVF, treatments (Rhys 1). This means that embryos that are not used during fertilization treatments are used for scientific research instead of being frozen in storage facilities or discarded (1). This is not immoral because scientists are using the cells obtained from the embryos to advance medical knowledge and help people (Cohen 10). The embryos the stem cells are obtained from would likely never be used. In Pat Brennan‟s news article, stem cell scientist Brian Cummings stated that “the argument is backward. It‟s immoral to throw away this stuff and not use it to help someone” (5). This raises an interesting point. Why let valuable cells go to waste when they could be used to advance the

Rader 6 medical world? Embryonic stem cells also come from existing stem cell lines or miscarried fetuses (Eve et al.). Again, instead of discarding miscarried fetuses scientists are able to use them in their research. Obtaining embryonic stem cells in this way is not immoral; scientists are simply using leftover materials to conduct research. Professionals of the secular view have reached the conclusion that “early human embryos at five to six days of growth are not individual human beings, and their use in embryonic stem cell research can be morally justifiable” (Cohen 59). From the secular viewpoint, this is a reasonable conclusion because at that stage of development the “embryo” is just a fertilized egg. There are also several other, more ethical, types of stem cells being researched. Scientists have been able to obtain amniotic and umbilical cord stem cells (Eve et al.). Amniotic stem cells can be taken from the leftover amniotic fluid retrieved during an amniocentesis procedure (Eve et al.). This procedure is a way to check for abnormalities during pregnancy (Eve et al.). Instead of discarding the fluid after the test, it is stored for research (Eve et al.). Amniotic fluid may contain embryonic and adult stem cells and it may even be able to treat diabetes (Eve et al.). If amniotic fluid does contain both embryonic and adult stem cells, it would be a very ethical way of obtaining cells for research because it does not harm life in any way. Scientists may also be able to obtain stem cells from umbilical cord blood (Eve et al.). Obtaining stem cells from cord blood is a non life threatening way to get stem cells. It is also convenient because there are numerous cord blood banks that allow donors to store their own cells and use them if they are needed to treat an illness (Eve et al.). Besides embryonic stem cell research, there are various scientists researching adult stem cells. Adult stem cells have been found in several different parts of the body “including bone marrow, blood, and body fat cells” (Cohen 3). As reported by Valerie Richardson, Derrick J.

Rader 7 Rossi and his team of scientists discovered that they can transform skin cells to behave as embryonic stem cells do (1). Rossi‟s team found that the skin cells were similar in molecular properties to embryonic stem cells and that they were produced more efficiently (1). The discovery that skin stem cells could behave as embryonic stem cells has been approved by opponents of embryonic stem cell research (1). The discovery that human skin cells can behave as embryonic stem cells is a huge breakthrough in stem cell research because it is efficient and ethical. Research on stem cell research is carefully monitored by associations and organizations. There are research centers that only conduct research on non-controversial stem cells (Wilson 1). For example, the Biocell center conducts all of its research using stem cells from amniotic fluid (1). The researchers at this center do not use any embryonic cells (1). Centers such as this one are vital because they promote non-controversial methods of research. There is an act called the Human Fertilization Act that prohibits scientists to take cells from embryos older than fourteen days and it also restricts the time in which they are allowed to grow the stem cells in a lab (Rhys 1). Acts and regulations are imperative to the fight for continued stem cell research because they place restrictions on the research to guarantee that it remains moral and just. The Ethics Advisory Board, known as the EAB, proclaims that human embryos deserve respect but they do not get all the rights of a full legal person (Devettere 369). They believe that some research on human embryos is morally acceptable (369). The Ethics Advisory Board‟s approval of stem cell research shows that it is morally acceptable. With support from major organizations such as the EAB, stem cell research will become more widely accepted and people will become more aware of what stem cell research entails.

Rader 8 The benefits of stem cell research are plentiful and include the ability to treat several diseases. Dr. Arwyn Jones says that stem cells could possibly cure diseases such as cancer, Diabetes, and Parkinson‟s (Rhys 1). With such great potential it would not be right to restrict research. Finding cures or treatments for diseases would improve the quality of life for many. Stem cells can make cardiovascular and neurodegenerative improvements (Eve et al.). With continued research and studying, stem cells have the potential to treat stroke and heart ischemia (Eve et al.). If scientists can discover the perfect science of stem cells they will be able to help millions of people who suffer from medical issues. The stem cell also has the ability to regenerate organs and tissue. Because stem cells can reproduce themselves and morph into any kind of cell, they are able to sustain tissues and organs (Cohen 3). Stem cells can transform into heart, liver, muscle, blood, or pancreas cells (3). “Stem cells hold the potential to become a repair kit for the human body” (Wilson 1). Stem cells are the future of the medical world because they are “super cells” that can basically treat any ailment of the human body (1). Even if stem cells cannot cure diseases they will still be a very effective treatment for diseases (1). Also, with the ability to repair organs and tissues, doctors would be able to use a patient‟s own cells to treat the loss or damage of a vital organ. “Stem cell research is a major area in biomedical research, one that could have a far-reaching impact on the overall health of the human race” (Eve et al. 1). The benefits of stem cell research are not out of our reach. With continued research and dedication scientists can discover the proper ways to use stem cells in the human body. Stem cells can bring miracles to the medical field, but research must proceed in order to make them happen. Stem cell research is an extraordinary and unpredictable field. Although there may be dangers or uncertainties with experiments, scientists can learn from mistakes and improve their

Rader 9 knowledge. Risks are necessary to move forward in scientific research. Violations of religious beliefs and issues of morality are few due to regulations on research and innovative ways of obtaining stem cells. The many benefits of stem cell research outweigh the negatives and are difficult to ignore. Continual research and studies of stem cells will lead to remarkable breakthroughs in science and medicine. With potential for treatment of countless diseases and regeneration of organs and tissues, stem cells will change the medical world for the better.

Rader 10 Works Cited Brennan, Pat. “Stem-cell Scientists Find Right Chemistry.” The O.C. Register 108.50 19 Feb. 2012:1-6. Print. 21 Feb. 2012. Cohen, Cynthia B. Renewing the Stuff of Life: Stem Cells, Ethics, and Public Policy. New York: Oxford UP, 2007. Questia. Web. 24 Jan. 2012. Devettere, Raymond J. Practical Decision Making in Health Care Ethics: Cases and Concepts. Washington, DC: Georgetown UP, 2010. Questia. Web. 24 Jan. 2012. Eve, David J., et al. "Stem Cell Research and Health Education." American Journal of Health Education 39.3 (2008): 1-10. Questia. Web. 24 Jan. 2012. "Good Intentions?." Commonweal 26 Feb. 2010: 6. Questia. Web. 24 Jan. 2012. Rhys, Steffan. "'Benefits of Stem Cell Research Outweigh the Ethical Concerns' Scientist Looks to a Future in Which We Can Cure Diseases like Cancer and Parkinson's." Western Mail 7 Aug. 2008: 22. Questia. Web. 23 Jan. 2012. Richardson, Valerie. "'Major' Stem Cell Development Announced; Skin Cells Can Be Easily Converted, Report Says." The Washington Times 1 Oct. 2010: A05. Questia. Web. 24 Jan. 2012. "Scientists Use Cloning to Make Human Stem Cells." Manila Bulletin 6 Oct. 2011: N.pag. Questia. Web. 24 Jan. 2012. Watson, Kathryn. "Adult Stem Cells Said to 'Forget' Retooling; Alternative to Embryonic Dealt Setback." The Washington Times 20 July 2010: A05. Questia. Web. 23 Jan. 2012. Wilson, Drew. "Offstage, 'Ethical' Stem-Cell Work Advances." The Washington Times 6 Dec. 2009: A01. Questia. Web. 24 Jan. 2012.