Before we head on to discuss the pros and cons of stem cell research, let us discuss what stem cell is. They are a kind of non specialized cells that can potentially create other particular cells like brain, blood, muscle or tissue cells. Stem cells are present in our body in abundance but they have much more potential in the fetus than adults. There are some kinds of stem cells, which can create every other cell in human body. And some other cells are potentially able to replace or repair damaged cells and tissues. Embryonic stem cells get built up from a female egg once it gets fertilized by the sperm. This procedure takes approximately 4-5 days.
Research on stem cells has been a topic of hot discussions in the past few years. Opponents as well as proponents have evidence to support their views. And before you make an opinion, it is crucial to know the views and evidences on hand.
Pros of stem cells research
- It is possible to reprogram the stem cells of adults and there are lesser chances of their rejection when they are employed in transplants.
- It is possible to grow embryonic stem cells for a year at the least in a few cases, particularly when well determined protocols are employed. Further, these stem cells can be utilized to create more types of cells.
- Stimulated pluripotent stem cells can help to steer clear of problems of histocompatibillity in transplants. Moreover, if good research is made on these cells, it will help reprogram damaged or diseases tissues.
- Stem cells can be utilized to treat many complicated diseases which need transplanting cells produced from embryonic stem cells of humans. Such diseases include diabetes, traumatic spinal cord injury, hearing and vision loss, Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy and heart diseases.
- Stem cells are also helpful in potentially treating problems like repair or replace damaged organs, birth defects, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injuries and Alzheimer’s disease. If people get good treatment of such diseases, it will be beneficial for them as well as the society.
- They may also provide cure for many kinds of cancers because it will enable the doctors to take out the organs affected by such diseases and use the stem cells of the patient themselves to re-grow the organs. Organs which can be re-grown are pancreas, liver and may others.
- Scientists have greater advantage if they use embryonic stem cells rather than adult stem cells. Stem cells of the embryos are less problematic to isolate and identify. And they are easy to purify and grow.
- The use to embryonic stem cells guarantees that the cells do not catch any genetic diseases. But, this is not the case with adult cells that may contain genetic diseases and thus, may not give a reliable cure.
Cons of stem cells research
- There is limited ability of the adult stem cells to grow in culture for long time and they cannot distinguish from others. Moreover, we do not have any technology to produce these cells in huge quantities.
- The human body may not accept embryonic stem cells through transplants because no process is there to generate them. They may even become a cause for tumors if they are used straight from undistinguished culture prep.
- Stimulated pluripotent cells normally do not have any particular method of reproducibility and maintenance.
- The embryonic stem cells remain in controversy because the cells are taken from human embryos by disassembling them. Then, the component cells are cultivated in culture.
- The belief that life starts at conception states to facilitate the stem cells employed in research should be given a position of human beings and get a legal treatment.
- The definition of stem cells deliberately misuses the terminology. The proponents of research of embryonic stem cells employ the expression, “pluripotent”. It means that the embryonic stem cell is not able to make the outer coating of the embryo, which is called trophoblst. But, the stem cells taken out in the petri dish can restructure the trophoblast and produce and implantable embryo.
The ethical dilemma
There is a significant moral dilemma attached to stem cell research. Two moral principles come to the fore:
- You must admire the worth of human life or
- You must work towards alleviating the suffering of humans.
It is a very complicated decision to make.
The embryo’s moral status is a very controversial subject. Some people consider the embryo to have a human life and find it wrong to carry out stem cell research with it. It means we should not give up one life for the sake of other.
However, many people argue that there is no moral status attached with an embryo and it is just an organ of the body. Thus, it is okay to conduct research with stem cells of the embryo. Let us go through these aspects in detail:
There is a moral status for the embryo
The opponents state that the fertilized egg is just a portion of someone’s body. It implies that it deserves respect like we give to the property of someone else. But, the proponents state that embryo will not develop if the embryonic stem cells are removed. This, in reality, averts the chances of embryo to become a human being.
Moral status will be given to the embryo after fertilization
The proponents state that the embryo of a human should be regarded as a human in totality from the earliest stages, like that of an infant. They state so because the embryo will show human characteristics in future even if it does not do so.
While the opponents have faith in the fact before the embryo is implanted in the uterus, it is does not have any psychological, physical and emotional characteristics of a human. Thus, it is absolutely okay to utilize it for the advantage of the patient. And the embryo will, by no means, grow into a child if it is not placed into uterus.
14 days after fertilization, there comes a cut-off point.
Many people argue that more protection should be given to the embryo 14 days after fertilization since it cannot come apart to make twins. Prior to this period, there will not be any nervous system in the embryo. Thus, it feels nothing like that of a brain dead human being.
The status of the embryo should increase during development
Once the sperm gets into the process of fertilizing the egg, the embryo should receive more protection. And this is the time when the moral status of the embryo increases since it acquires human characteristics. But, the proponents state that the moral status will vary during different stages of the growth of embryo. The opponents state that the embryo should be protected at all stages and it should not be destroyed at all.