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Jillian Nieter 12/5/14 Biology D Mrs. Trani Stem Cell Debate In the near future there could be a world without Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer's disease. Stem cell research has the potential to create cells that can delay or prevent the diseases. There are three types of stem cells: embryonic stem cells, adult stem cells, and induced pluripotent stem cells. Each of these stem cell researches have different potentials, for example, embryonic stem cells could halve the recovery time of injuries, diseases, and illnesses (Health Research Funding [HRF], 2013). Stem cell research could be the next huge step forward in medical science and technology. Embryonic stem cells are cells that come from blastocysts. A blastocyst is a group of about 100 cells or so that have formed a few days after fertilization. These cells are pluripotent and undifferentiated, meaning that they naturally grow into many different specialized cells, like heart cells. Scientists can differentiate the cells themselves so the cells can grow into the specialized cells that the scientists need. This allows scientists to get “adult human cells without taking tissue from patients” (Blair, 2011). These embryonic cells have the potential to treat a very wide range of medical issues because of their ability to become so many different specialized cells. Some diseases and injuries that stem cells could potentially help fix are: Parkinson’s, Alzheimer's, diabetes, spinal cord injury and heart disease (Rebecca 2013). Opportunities to cure these diseases and help heal people could alleviate human suffering extensively. Scientists can also grow more stem cells from the cells in the blastocyst, but the cells are not yet a person, or have what makes us people. Embryos do not develop a nervous system until fourteen days after fertilization, so using the cells before that point can be compared to taking organs from organ donors that are declared dead. Neither the embryo nor the organ donor can be conscious of what is going on. Although, some religions believe that even the blastocyst, or embryo, has the status of a human, so it would be like committing murder to destroy an embryo. On the other hand, in this very early stage before the nervous system has developed, the embryo “does not have the psychological, emotional or physical properties that we associate with being a person” (Hug, 2011). Therefore, the embryo is not “alive” or aware that it is being destroyed for the use of research, and it won’t have any opinions or objections to being used for science. Adult stem cell (somatic cell) research is virtually free of ethical conflict. The somatic cells are cells found in adult tissue. They are not usually pluripotent, so they only create the types of tissue for that specific organ. For example, adult brain stem cells only produce the three types of tissue found in the brain. Because adult stem cells can create “a line of genetically identical cells that give rise to [...] differentiated cell types of the tissue,” and they create predictable differentiated cells, adult stem cells can be used in transplants (What are adult stem cells? 2012). This gives scientists access to many new and different medical technologies. The final type of stem cell is induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells). They are made from adult stem cells and have been genetically reprogrammed to act like the embryonic stem cells, so they can make any type of cell in the body. The first iPS cell was made in 2006 by Shinya Yamanaka. They are the beginning of a huge leap forward in regenerative medicine and may “provide an unlimited supply of replacement cells for patients with currently untreatable diseases” (Hadenfeld, 2012). The iPS cell research can help scientists understand more diseases and come up with ways to treat these diseases. However, some ethical controversies arise with the iPS cell research. One such controversy is about cloning. If the iPS cells do get fully converted back to embryonic cells, then “the resulting cells would be exact genetic matches of their human donors” (Brind’Amour, 2013). Many people may think this would be a bad thing to happen, but in fact, this would actually help the patients. Patient-specific therapy is a goal for many stem cell researchers because then the researchers do not have to deal with patients’ bodies possibly rejecting foreign cells. Induced pluripotent stem cell research has potential for medical treatments, like replacement therapies. For example, genetic diseases could be fixed in the iPS cells, and those new cells could replace the cells that still have the disease in them. The iPS cells would be good for this because since the cells are coming from the patients own skin, the patient’s immune system would not reject the replacing cells. More research needs to be done before scientists fully understand the reprogramming of the cells, so for now this is all theoretical (Hadenfeld 2012). In conclusion, there are three types of stem cell research. Embryonic stem cell research, which is the most controversial research, but also the more effective research. Adult stem cell research is the least controversial, and less effective than the other researches because these cells only create cells of certain types. Finally, there is induced pluripotent stem cell research. It is less controversial than the embryonic stem cell research, and has almost the same capabilities of embryonic stem cells. Sources Blair, K. (2011, June 28). ​Embryonic stem cells: Where do they come from and what can they do?​ (J. Nichols & A. Smith, Eds.). Retrieved December 11, 2014, from http://www.eurostemcell.org/factsheet/embryonic-stem-cells-where-do-they-come-and-w hat-can-they-do Brind'Amour, K. (2013, September 25).​ Ethics and Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells.​ The Embryo Project Encyclopedia. Retrieved December 12, 2014, from http://embryo.asu.edu/pages/ethics-and-induced-pluripotent-stem-cells Embryonic Stem Cell Research Pros and Cons. (2013, December 28). Retrieved December 11, 2014, from ​http://healthresearchfunding.org/embryonic-stem-cell-research-pros-cons/ Hadenfeld, M. (2012, December 14).​ IPS cells and reprogramming: Turn any cell of the body into a stem cell​ (M. Peitz & A. Pusch, Eds.). Retrieved December 12, 2014, from http://www.eurostemcell.org/factsheet/ips-cells-and-reprogramming-turn-any-cell-body-s tem-cell Hug, K. (2011, March 23). ​Embryonic stem cell research: An ethical dilemma.​ Retrieved December 11, 2014, from http://www.eurostemcell.org/factsheet/embyronic-stem-cell-research-ethical-dilemma Rebecca (2013, April 19).​ Defining a Life: The Ethical Questions of Embryonic Stem Cell Research (Revised).​ Retrieved December 11, 2014, from https://my.vanderbilt.edu/almosthuman/2013/04/defining-a-life-the-ethical-questions-of-e mbryonic-stem-cell-research/ What are adult stem cells?. In ​Stem Cell Information​ [World Wide Web site]. Bethesda, MD: National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2012 [cited Thursday, December 11, 2014] Available at <​http://stemcells.nih.gov/info/basics/pages/basics4.aspx​> What are induced pluripotent stem cells?. In ​Stem Cell Information​ [World Wide Web site]. Bethesda, MD: National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2009 [cited Thursday, December 11, 2014] Available at <​http://stemcells.nih.gov/info/basics/pages/basics10.aspx​>