Stem Cells: A Proverbial Obscurity (Argumentative Research Essay Supporting Stem Cell Research; Includes Works Cited Entries)

1934 words - 8 pages

Human cloning is an often controversial and highly emotive issue with many factors surrounding it. A global ban on all facets of human cloning has been introduced for approval by the United Nations, and it is on the verge of being passed. Banning human cloning on all levels would be an arbitrary mistake with unnecessary consequences. Stem cell research, the eminent component of human cloning, would be outlawed if this ban were passed. According to R. Alta Charo, professor of law and medical ethics at the University of Wisconsin Law School, "Debates over cloning, stem cell therapy, and even genetic engineering have become almost hopelessly entangled in the last five years." The potential benefits of stem cell research to the human race are far too monumental to be overlooked or outlawed. Human cloning should be regulated, but it should not be banned entirely.Stem cells are the primordial cells from which all tissue develops. At the earliest stage of development humans are composed of cells which are either totipotent, meaning they have full potential to become any of the more than 200 cell types that make up the body, or they are pluripotent, meaning they have the capacity to become many of the specialized cells that make up the human body, such as brain cells, neurons, and various tissue cells. Adult stem cells have developed to a stage called multipotent, which means they are specialized body cells. 14 days after conception an embryo is composed primarily of multipotent adult stem cells.Kris Clouthier, a professed opponent of embryonic stem cell (ESC) research reports, "Initial studies showed that embryonic stem cells could be transformed to other cells types with relative ease. The cells could also continue to divide and renew themselves for years while remaining unspecialized, like the parent cells. These special qualities of embryonic stem cells led to high hopes for new ways to heal the body." Scientists hope that stem cells can be manipulated to produce cells that will allow the human body to combat many disorders. Included in the diseases believed to be treatable or even curable with stem cells are diabetes, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's disease. Additionally, tissue damaged by heart disease, spinal cord injury, stroke, cancer, or burns could be repaired or replaced by tissue grown from stem cells. If stem cells could be instructed to differentiate into any type of body cell, they could potentially be used to cultivate new organs to replace damaged ones. Instead of waiting for a donor, an organ could be made especially for someone in need. Researching stem cells also allows scientists to study cell development and differentiation, which would expand knowledge of genetic disorders. The National Institutes of Health explains,"A primary goal of this work would be the identification of the factors involved in the cellular decision-making process that results in cell specialization. We know that turning genes on and off is central to this process, but we do not know [. . .] what turns them on or off. Some of our most serious medical conditions, such as cancer and birth defects, are due to abnormal cell specialization and cell division. A better understanding of normal cell processes will allow us to further delineate the fundamental errors that cause these often deadly illnesses."Anything concerning human life or potential human life sparks profound debate among an array of people including scientists, politicians, and religious groups. Social scientist and ethicist Dorothy Wertz indicates that "just about anything with the label 'embryo' or 'fetus' arouses [. . .] concerns about the dignity of human life or human potential." Scientists and some religious sects claim that life doesn't begin until approximately 14 days after conception when cells have differentiated while most religious groups maintain that it begins at the moment of fertilization. Since the question of when life begins can not be answered completely and truly by any one individual, it is proposed that human cloning technology is regulated in order to reach a compromise.There will always be extremists, but generally speaking, researchers do not want to use cloning technology to clone a human being. Greg Easterbrook insists, "The primary point stem cell researchers make [. . .] is that the cells they experiment upon, once brought into the lab, might be made into muscle or blood, but can no longer become a human being." There is a widespread consensus among scientists, bioethicists, and researchers that reproductive cloning is dangerous, shows no real benefit to humans, and should be outright banned. Similarly, scientists propose that embryonic stem cell research should be strictly regulated. Following these hypothetical regulations, only embryos created during the in vitro fertilization (IVF) process or for therapeutic cloning could be used for research. To be valid research material, embryos would have to be donated by those involved with the creation of the embryo in order to avoid a black market for embryo proliferation. Anyone caught violating the rules would be punished to the full extent of the law. "How Far to Go" suggests, "Human-cloning research could take place, tightly controlled, and progress like other experimental procedures, with strictly enforced licenses for those who conduct research and harsh penalties for those who work without them." With regulations intact, embryonic stem cell research should be allowed to continue. President and CEO of Advanced Cell Technologies, Michael West, explains, "We believe that these new technologies, if properly applied, could lead to significant medical advances with lifesaving potential. Poorly constructed legislation, designed to prohibit the cloning of a human being, could inadvertently interfere with urgent and ethical applications of the technologies in medicine" (51).The controversy over embryonic stem cells arises mostly from the need for human embryos to conduct the research. Embryonic stem cells appear to be the best source of stem cells because they are less differentiated and they are more easily cultivated than are adult stem cells. The IVF process typically produces more embryos than a couple can use. Those extra embryos are frozen at five days maturity, and then after a period of time, usually five years, if the embryos are not donated to another couple or used for experimentation, they are destroyed. Arthur Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania infers, "It seems appropriate to ask why [. . .] it would not be worth permitting the donation of spare embryos for research [. . .] in much the same way that we allow families to donate their loved ones organs and tissues [. . .]." Adversaries argue that using embryos for research not only sacrifices human life but human dignity as well; hence they claim that using embryos for research rather than discarding them somehow devalues human life. Wertz reasons, "Research on embryos [. . .] that would otherwise be thrown away does not cause indignity to human life. On the contrary, it dignifies human life by perhaps helping to save others." In essence, opponents of embryonic stem cell research demand, because of concern for an unwanted embryo, that people who are ailed with a degenerative disease or are paralyzed must remain that way (Caplan).Opponents of embryonic research contend that adult stem cells could be used instead of embryos. Adult stem cells are a promising source of stem cells, though they are believed to have less potential than do embryonic stem cells. Clouthier affirms, "[. . .] these cells do not multiply and renew themselves as efficiently as embryonic stem cells. They don't seem to have the ability to produce the supply of cells needed to treat several thousand patients." Also, scientists have not found stem cells in every part of the body, and even when they are found they are not always useful. According to the National Institutes of Health, "we have not located adult cardiac stem cells or adult pancreatic islet stem cells in humans. [. . .] Adult stem cells are often present in only minute quantities, are difficult to isolate and purify, and their numbers may decrease with age." As mentioned before, adult stem cells are multipotent; therefore, their potential is significantly decreased, and age only magnifies this aspect. Some recent research has indicated that adult stem cells may be more useful than originally thought, but to discontinue embryonic research on those grounds could be a fatal error. The National Institutes of Health stresses, "In order to determine the very best source of many of the specialized cells and tissues of the body [. . .] it will be vitally important to study the developmental potential of adult stem cells and compare it to that of pluripotent stem cells."Challengers also argue that there is not a proven cure or treatment in the near future, but the same can be said about all research in its earliest phases. It takes years, sometimes decades, to develop treatments and cures, and not enough research has been done to gauge the effect of stem cell therapy. The factor of time should not dishearten or distract anyone from the medical wonderment that will come from stem cell research. An old English proverb declares, "All good things come to those who wait."Michael Revel proclaims, "To benefit from scientific advancement is a basic human right defined by the United Nations" (30); therefore should the global ban on human cloning be approved, basic human rights as outlined in Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, rights specifically granted by the United Nations itself, would be violated ironically by the very grantor of those rights. Human cloning technology should not be banned outright because the benefits far outweigh the risks. Proper legislation should be established so that stem cell research is permitted to commence, progress, and eventually revolutionize medical practice as a whole.Works CitedCaplan, Arthur. "Research on Human Embryos Can Be Ethical." Current Controversies: Medical Ethics. Nov. 1998: n. pag. Online. Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Galegroup. North Lake Coll. Lib., Irving, TX. 5 Oct. 2004 .Charo, R. Alta. "Scientific Impact on Cloning Ban." FDCH Congressional Testimony. 5 Feb. 2002: n. pag. Online. TOPICsearch. ESBChost. 23 Oct. 2004.Clouthier, Kris. "The Promises and Pitfalls of Stem Cell Research." Points of View: Stem Cell Research. 2004: n. pag. Online. TOPICsearch. ESBChost. 20 Oct. 2004.Easterbrook, Gregg. "Stem Cells: A Promising Line of Cloning-Related Research." Contemporary Issues Companion: Cloning. Dec. 1998: n. pag. Online. Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Galegroup. North Lake Coll. Lib. Irving, TX., 5 Oct. 2004 .Espejo, Roman, ed. Biomedical Ethics: Opposing Viewpoints. San Diego: Greenhaven P, 2003."How Far To Go." Ecomomist. 4 Jan. 2003: n. pag. Online. TOPICsearch. EBSCOhost. 20 Oct. 2004 .National Institutes of Health. "Embryonic Stem Cell Research Is Beneficial." At Issue: Human Embryo Experimentation. n. pag. Online. Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Galegroup. North Lake Coll. Lib., Irving, TX. 5 Oct. 2004 .Revel, Michael. "Cloning Technology Could Be Beneficial To Humans." Espejo. 30-37.Wertz, Dorothy C. "Fetal Tissue Research Will Benefit Medical Science." Current Controversies: The Abortion Controversy. n. pag. Online. Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. InfoTrac. North Lake Coll. Lib., Irving, TX. 5 Oct. 2004.West, Michael D. "Therapeutic Human Cloning Should Be Permitted." Espejo. 45-51.

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