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Stem Cell Research - Essay Example

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It is quite remarkable how a single fertilized cell can develop into a multicellular being. The pluripotency, or the ability of the former to divide into generations of specialized cells that later perform different functions, is one of the defining characteristics of multicellular organisms…
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Download file to see previous pages History of Stem Cell Research Because of their unique properties, much attention has been dedicated to the study of stem cells. In 1998, scientists had found a way to obtain and grow stem cells from the products of in vitro fertilization. Because stem cells are important especially among developing embryos, harvesting stem cells from them unavoidably cause their unviability. Not surprisingly, ethical issues aroused from this development, as discussed below, prompting researchers to identify and to harvest adult stem cells, as well as develop induced pluripotent stem cells (IPSCs) by reprogramming specialized adult cells. However, embryonic stem cells have been described as the most pluripotent (National Institutes of Health, 2009). Benefits of Stem Cell Research Stem cell research (SCR) has been supported because it paves the way for more discoveries. Knowing the distinct characteristics of stem cells, specifically its prolonged mitosis, its undifferentiated state and production of specialized progenies, leads to experiments on the possible reasons for increased proliferation of embryonic stem cells relative to adult stem cells and the regulating factors behind stem cell proliferation and self-renewal. These factors, in the future, may be used in the regeneration of destroyed tissues, such as that in myocardial infarction, one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in the United States. In addition, these pluripotent cells can provide a better observation of human development from embryo to infancy. This then may lead to researches on the abnormal cellular development, as seen in birth defects, genetic abnormalities and cancer. Large amount of cells grown in vivo from stem cells may also be used in easier and safer testing of drug safety and effectiveness. (Johnson and Williams, 2006). Claimed Disadvantages of Stem Cell Research Which Lives to Save Despite the many scientific advancements contributed by stem cell research, many still argue against it. One argument reasons that the fertilized eggs used in SCR are already alive, and thus it is not right to take someone else’s life, it does not matter for what purpose. Partly causing such conflict stems from the fact that until now, there is no specific age of gestation at which life starts has been pinpointed to start at. However, it is in my opinion that whether or not the embryos used in SCR are alive or not, there is no price that can be put on the countless number of lives that can be saved through the products of SCR. The Health Risk of Stem Cell Therapy Another argument against SCR claims that the chemical and biological factors used to manipulate the cells in vivo can cause adverse effects once the resulting specialized cells from them are transplanted to humans for therapy. For example, viruses from the mouse embryonic skin cells that are used to provide nutrients to the replicating human embryonic stem cells (HESC) may cause inflammation or infection on the recipient. The transcription factors Oct4 and Nanog added to prevent differentiation of stem cells can possibly cause cancer among the stem cell recipients. As well, cell culture of HESC may also cause genetic mutations and chromosomal abnormalities, with the former easily missed because of they are undetectable in karyotyping (National Institutes of Health). Absurd as it may sound, but I believe that they have a valid point. There is indeed a big possibility of in vivo- ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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