Research Paper: Discussion Surrounding Human Stem Cells
The original discover of stems cells was a very long drawn out adventure that had many scientists that contributed to the original discovery. Some of the early non human studies can be followed clear back into 1932 to Florence Sabin. His studies found normal stem cells located in the marrow and proceeded to stem outward from there.
In 1961 the accidental findings in “Radiation Research” which lead to an article stating the existence of stem cells published by Dr. James Till and Dr. Ernest McCulloch. The creation of the foundation for stem cell science that followed, and there has been several stepping stones and conflicts over the years. Though there are so many potential uses for these powerful cells the ethics behind what is required to acquire them in order to put them to use makes it a difficult topic to breach. Around 1975 the Ethics Advisory Board came into being in order to set guidelines for fetal and fetal tissue researching.
With one of the focuses of research revolving around embryonic tissues, the years to follow filled with bills, amendments, and arguments that either pushed forward or worked towards shutting down the continuation of research. But with the discovery of stem cells having the ability to become any type of tissue and the provided source of those stems cells in humans, the battle on either side of the fence is understandable. The need to drive forward in the realm of research is important, but at the same time the need to preserve all life makes the source of stem cells and ethical storm that in the minds of many is very questionable.
Upsides and down sides
Stem cells have the amazing ability to grow into pretty much any tissue possible. Though they start out with all the parts a cell typically begins with, embryonic stem cells are found only during the early stages of fetal development. These cells seem unstoppable not only because they can develop into specialty cells, but they also can renew them selves too. They are called pluripotent because of them being able to become close to any bodily tissue cells.
Their ability leads to some medical “miracles” due to their ability to be used in things like stem cell therapy. When used as a therapeutic treatment, pluripotent stem cells can be used to aid in recovery of medical conditions. Once they enter the administration site these cells can do what they do best and become new cells of the tissue type in the administered area, aiding in healing and recovery in the process.
One draw back of human stem cells is that their numbers change. Since these cells are used to help make specialized cells in the body, the number that is seen within the human body changes over the years as we age. One of the other drawbacks is as mentioned earlier, the source and supply of human stem cells. They are found within human embryos that are three to five days old when looking for embryonic stem cells. With embryonic stem cells their versatility seems endless when it comes to repairing or even regenerating tissues. Adult stems cells can also be found but they are much, much smaller in number and are limited in their abilities.
Human embryonic stem cells lead to the ethical dilemma side of the argument due to the embryos they are withdrawn from are only three to five days old, and the blastocysts are destroyed in the process on collection. The fact that the blastocysts used are from in vitro fertilized eggs that are donated, and that aren’t implanted into a woman’s uterus doesn’t stray away from the fact that they are still an early-stage human life regardless of the test tube or petri dish its in.
The question arises of using adult human stem cells instead, but as previously mentioned their durability and versatility aren’t the same. But it would seem the research could still be useful regardless of the lack of the full ability to be manipulated to produce any type of cell, and they also tend to have more environmentally produces abnormalities. This in turn also limits the ability of adult stem cells to treat diseases.
There have been a few studies such as using stem cells in the treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder for example. With the multiple factors suspected to play a roll in the development of autism, there seem to only be a few ways to help manage the condition. In a case series found by Geeta Shroff, they had three pediatric patients with the disorder that they proceeded to administer embryonic stem cells over three to four treatments. In this study they did see improvements of certain functions seen commonly in those diagnosed with autism and they concluded that the treatment may be effective but would need further study.
But to add a medical draw back to the use of embryonic stem cells to treat disease, the process of administering can lead to its own complications. If stem cells that were injected were to be rejected by the immune system, certain cancers such are teratomas become a risk. In a study on immune-deficient mice, they noted the transplantation of embryonic stem cells can lead to tumors that resemble spontaneous teratomas in humans. But as stated in another article, this could be dependent on the location of administration as well as whether the patient is immune-deficient or not. As anything in the line of research, there will always be benefits and there will always be risks!
All in all, I feel this is a difficult topic to breach due to the ethic behind it. I must agree with the fact and embryonic stem cells have amazing abilities, and adult stem cells also can have their place even with their limitations. But a life is a life regardless. My opinion also remains in the fence due to that fact that for embryonic research to continue, those blastocysts are still fertilized human eggs that are striving towards human life. So that makes the desire to learn more about what they are capable of a hard thing to pursue.
But on the flip side of this double edges knife, there is so much potential in those tiny little cells. The ability to become any specialty cell makes them beyond just a miracle. There are so many diseases and ailments that something so small can make such a large difference in. And there may not be any other way to treat some of those conditions. So that leaves me like so many others out there, half in and half out. I do feel that digging a little deeper into adult stem cells can reap some more benefit, but I understand the limitations of those cells. I also understand that the eggs used in the research of embryonic stem cells are willing donated for that specific cause. So my conclusion is that those in this field of research know and understand what they are striving towards and are willing to make the steps necessary to do what is needed. And as long as there are ethical boundaries in place, the eggs are donated, and there is a need to strive forward in this field then those with a strong moral compass can do so.
Who knows how many lives can be saved or illnesses can be treated with this research. And success does take sacrifice. There are also more unknowns when it comes to the possibility of risks in human patients that are treated with embryonic stem cells, and that very well can alter things one direction or another. So maybe one day that big cure that everyone have been looking for will come to light through research studies such as the once needed for human stem cells. Or there may be a point where a discovery with force the halt of research due to risks that we have yet to discover. Regardless, the only was to know more will be to continue to learn more.