Stem cells refer to the cells which are capable of developing into various cell types for example brain cells and muscle cells. These cells may maintain its original status that is as stem cell or it can change and become a special cell including blood cells, brain cells or muscle cells. The work of stem cells is to repair the body system. Researchers have in the recent past conducted various researches of the usability of stem cells to cure other human ailments an issue which have raised heated debates from various sectors around the world. While conduction stem cells research for human use, embryonic cells are used. This is because these cells are vital because the possibility of them developing into all body cells is high including bone marrow and brain cells. Stems cells can also be obtained form amniotic fluid, the placenta, adult tissues, umbilical cord, bone marrow, cadavers which have not stayed for more than twenty hours after death, nose regions, and liposuction fats. Embryonic cells used for stem cells research are obtained from embryos that are a week old (Holland, Lebacqz & Zoloth, pp 33).
Use of embryonic cells for research towards curing human ailments has raised heated debates with those opposing this research base their argument on embryonic stem cells stating it would deny babies a chance to live their full lives and as such, this would mean sacrificing the lives of babies to save other people who may not have long time to live. On the contrary, people supporting the stem cell research as a means of treatment argue that this new method can be used to treat illnesses thus could lead to death hence prolonging a person’s life and wellness. It would help in saving many lives of people who could be facing terminal illnesses such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis, injuries of the spinal cord, cancer, heart diseases and other genetic disorders as well as immune system disorders among other diseases. Most of these diseases disable a person making them unable to perform their normal duties and have to rely on other peoples’ support and maintenance. Human stem cells could alleviate the problem of overdependence and help a person live a normal and productive life and as such, before discarding it as being morally and ethically wrong, the benefits of this method should be carefully assessed and evaluated (Østnor, pp 228).
Use of human stem cell for the purpose of curing human ailments
Human stem cells are obtained from adult tissues or the embryos. Embryonic cells can be created for the sole purpose of research or hey can be obtained from other process including in-vitro fertilization while adult cells are harvested from tissues of people with little harm being caused. Adult cells have been used for a long time as a means of curing diseases successfully but the current proposal is the use of embryonic cells in curing some of the terminal illnesses. Most individuals have no problem with the use of adult stem cells in curing diseases. Use of embryonic stem cells has been highly debated upon with some sectors believing that it is the only way of obtaining treatment for terminal illnesses. Although they have not been used in treating people, scientists still hold that they are the ultimate breakthrough to eliminating human ailments which so far have no cure such as cancer (Snow pp 44).
The various processes employed while carrying out stem cell research have raised heated debate grounded on moral and ethical issues. During extraction of embryonic stem cells, an embryo has to be destroyed thus the question of value of life. This is a stand which has been taken by most pro-life activists and religious groups which state that life begins at the very moment of conception. While most people are not against the use of stem cells to cure human ailments, the place of origin and the means of extraction are the key issues surrounding this issue. According to Barte a pro-life activist, use of stem cells obtained from embryos is similar to murdering such embryos which have a chance of living full life. Whether the embryos are cloned or obtained from in-vitro fertilization, Barte argues the embryos have a life which should no person should be allowed to take away (Holland, Lebacqz & Zoloth, pp 44-46).
However, many embryos are created for the purposes of in-vitro fertilization. From all these embryos, a womb can only be implanted with four embryos as a particular time while all the rest are just frozen to be used in a latter date. Most of the stored embryos are only destroyed as many more are created. Instead of destroying such embryos, they can be used to for development of stem cells which are more effective in curing diseases than other adult stem cells. One scientist known as Hariri established that stem cells obtained from the embryos produce ten times more cells as compared to cells obtained from the umbilical cord. This means that embryonic cells would lead to more effectiveness and would help in curing more diseases than all other forms of stem cells obtained elsewhere (Smith, para 2).
Use of human stem cells can be beneficial in enhancing the quality of life lived by individuals. Many pro-life activists state that embryos have a potential of growing and becoming mature human beings and as such, using embryos for stem cells extraction would be morally and legally wrong. Today, many people are living with terminal illnesses including cancer and diabetes which can be treated and even healed using stem cells from the embryo. Usually, people living with such conditions are young people in their middle ages who have the responsibility of raising their children and hence are breadwinners in their families. These terminal illnesses not only do they post the threat of death but they also cost the patients a lot of money and after their demise, relatives and children are left behind suffering. The embryos on the other hand have a possibility of living or dying. Stephen Minger a renowned scientist in United Kingdom said that there is no guarantee that the embryos would live long enough to be born since cases of miscarriage happen and the babies are lost (Baylis, & Robert, para 3-4). As such, it would be better to save people who are living and who have responsibilities of looking after their children than letting them suffer and even die.
The life sanctity issue though a correct one may have significant effect on the field of science if used as a basis of discarding the use of embryos for saving human lives. According to American association dealing with cancer research, stem cells derived from embryos has the capability of curing cancer (Smith, para 5). The stem cells have the ability of eluding differentiation and growth of body cells which leads to formation of tumors. The stem cells from embryos as stated earlier can transform themselves into cells of all major organs. This could be vital in identifying human tissues causing cancers. People who oppose human stem cells use for curing diseases though they assume that they care about lives of individuals, they forget the fact that millions of cancer patients die every day a trend which can be reversed if human stem cells is encouraged. According to board members of this association, opponents of human stem cells and especially the embryonic stem cells should consider the plight, pain and agonies suffered by cancer patients and compare the same with embryonic life which do not have one hundred percent guarantee of surviving. The procedure used in extracting the stem cells from embryos should not hinder or make people blind of the ultimate benefit of the same. Furthermore, excess embryos from the in-vitro fertilization are destroyed and people do not complain or state such actions as being immoral or wrong. Using such embryos to find cure for cancer would be more beneficial than destroying them (Holland, Lebacqz & Zoloth, pp 66-69).
Today, more than 200,000 Americans are suffering from spinal cord injuries which are debilitating. Spinal cord injuries leads to scars in the tissues which in turn hinder growth and stem cells can fix such a problem. This is done by removing the scar tissue and replacing it with stem cells prompting healing. This is according to Vandersaar Jolynn, (a registered nurse) following a personal interview. A successful research was carried out on rats which were paralyzed (Baylis, & Robert, para 7). They were injected with stem cells and within a span of two weeks; these rats were able to walk again. Vandersaar asserts that stem cells are capable of repairing a damaged area in the spinal cord for a distance of tow centimeters which is larger than most injuries. This would in turn give people a chance to walk again and perform their normal duties. The end results of human stem cells use in curing human illnesses as it has been proven by scientists, doctors and researchers in the field of stem cells are positive and promising. Despite the procedure used which entails destroying of the embryos, human stem cell has the capability of alleviating suffering, pain and possibly curing most of the life threatening and terminal illnesses. As such, instead of slowing the process by opposing it, people should look at the greater good this research would bring to the whole world in terms of improving individual’s lives and well being (Lanza, pp 102).
Human stem cell has been one of the most controversial scientific research inventions. Though use of adult human cells is not highly opposed, use of cells obtained from embryos is greatly opposed by pro-life and religions groups. This is because it entails destruction of embryos which these groups term as destruction of life hence amounting to nothing less than murder. However, stem cells from the embryo have been found to be the potential cures of most terminal illnesses such as cancer, spinal injuries and diabetes among others. Millions of people suffer from such diseases all over the world and managing such conditions is a costly venture. With cure just about to be obtained, opponents of human stem cells should focus their attention on the plight of suffering patients and have their best interests at heart. Though the processes of human stem cell may be cruel as per the perception of moralists, the end results are greater and profitable hence this research should be encouraged.
Baylis, Franccediloise & Robert, Jason Scott: Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research: An Argument for National Research Review. 2006. Journal of Accountability in Research, Volume 13
Holland Suzanne, Lebacqz Karen & Zoloth, Laurie: The human embryonic stem cell debate: science, ethics, and public policy. 2001. MIT Press, ISBN 0262582082
Lanza, Robert Paul: Handbook of stem cells, Volume 2. 2004. Gulf Professional Publishing, ISBN 0124366422
Østnor, Lars: Stem Cells, Human Embryos and Ethics: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. 2008. Springer, ISBN 140206988X
Smith, Nicole: Argument for Advancing Stem Cell Research. Retrieved on 26th September 2009 from,
Snow, Nancy E.: Stem cell research: new frontiers in science and ethics. 2003, University of Notre Dame Press, ISBN 0268017786