Stem Cells Essay

4582 words - 18 pages

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Stem cells are a large focus of study in today’s biomedical world. They are cells that exist in an undifferentiated state, and transform into differing tissue types depending on what the cells surrounding them are. The different types of stem cells have the ability to repair many classes of damaged human tissue. However, only one type of stem cell promises to regenerate virtually any class of tissue. This is the highly controversial embryonic stem cell (ESC). Unfortunately, there is a dark side to the ESC. To obtain these cells from embryos will ultimately kill it. By definition, the acquisition of the ESC includes performing an abortion. This has created a great stir in the public world, where abortion is such a hot topic that politicians are hesitant to take either side. The embryonic stem cell is today’s Pandora’s Box. With this option now available in the medical world, everyone involved with this topic must make a difficult ethical decision: whether or not saving existing life is worth the termination of potential future life. As expected, there are two sides to the stem cell argument. One side is all in favor of their use, and the other side is dead-set against it. Stem cells come at a high price, yet this price is well worth the saved lives they can offer.

In order to develop an opinion on whether or not stem cells should be used, one first must understand what they are and how they are used. Simply stated, the definition of a stem cell is an undifferentiated cell, meaning that it has no true function yet. However, all of the genes within a human stem cell have the potential to become other types of cells. The triggering mechanism for this is for the stem cells to be placed among specialized cells. Specialized cells include skin cells, muscle cells, or any other type of cell that has a specific function in the body. One of the most popular examples—and one of the most effective—is the neuron example. This was originally discovered at the University of Madison at Wisconsin in 1997. In the disease Multiple Scleroses, the myelin sheath protecting the neuron is missing. In the absence of myelin to protect the neuron, pain is a constant sensation. Researchers at UMW gathered a group of mice, which were genetically deficient of myelin. When the undifferentiated embryonic cells were implanted into their spines, the cells were able to sense that the myelin producing cells were deficient and morphologically changed into replacement myelin cells. Immediately, these new cells began coating the spinal chord with myelin (Embryonic). Effectively, the mice were cured. Soon, other scientists found they were able to repeat this phenomenon in other laboratories around the world.

Multiple Sclerosis is not the only disease that scientists have the ability to cure. In some isolated cases, juvenile diabetes has been added to the list of cured diseases (Goldstein n.p.). This, however, is not the only disease scientists believe...

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