Stem cells are the basic units from which the entire body of a human being develops. In other words, these are a group of cells from which all 210 diverse types of tissue such as muscle cells, blood cells, nerve cells, and even new teeth in the human body originate (National Bioethics Advisory Commission n.pag). Stem cells divide and differentiate into specific functions such as heart, muscle, blood, or brain cells in a human body (National Institutes of Health n.pag). Scientists have realized the potential of these stem cells and are using these to find appropriate treatments for several dreaded diseases.
However, today this subject is under controversy due to the very reason that stem cells are obtained from the embryo. If allowed these embryos could develop into human beings. Scientists have also found that several other sources of adult stem cells do not have any such ethical issues linked. Human stem cells can be obtained from several sources. The first is in vitro fertilization treatment, where surplus embryos are donated for research with the consent of the donor rather than being destroyed following treatment. The second source is aborted tissue where stem cells are taken from the aborted fetus. Umbilical cord blood is also rich in stem cells and is harvested following the baby’s birth.
Research on stem cells has provided enough evidence of making them uniquely situated to treat a broad spectrum of human diseases. A stem cell as we all know is a kind of cell that has the potential to divide or multiply indefinitely in culture. Science and technology have developed in such a way that scientists hope to use these cells to develop new tissues, treatments, and organs for transplanting into a patient. The first and foremost argument made by the scientific community is that human stem cell research is said to promise new life-changing treatments and possible cures for many devastating diseases and injuries, such as Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, burns, and spinal cord injuries (Young 2-16).
Adult stem cells have already been shown to be effective in tissue repair after stroke, spinal cord injury, diabetes, heart damage, Parkinson’s disease, cancers (of the brain, breast, ovary, testicle, blood, kidney, skin, and multiple myeloma), autoimmune diseases and many other conditions. Several studies support and encourage the fact that stem cell research is a field with tremendous potential. For instance, in a study by K Syrjala, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, it is estimated that more than 45,000 people receive adult stem-cell transplants across the world each year. Additionally, it was also found that in a follow-up study among the blood cancer patients who received adult stem cell, even after ten years of the treatment the subjects were found to be as healthy as the persons of the same age group.
There are times when these cells could be taken from the recipient patients themselves, avoiding any immune-rejection difficulties. The ‘adult’ stem cells are derived from people without harming anyone. Umbilical cord blood, the placenta, and even the amniotic fluid are rich in stem cells (McGuckin et al 245-255). Stem-cells have also been found in all the tissues found in our bodies such as the brain, pancreas, liver, skin, fat, muscle, blood, bone marrow, lungs, nose, and tooth pulp.
There is ample evidence that adult stem cells which normally help repair the tissue types in which they appear also have some pluripotent capacity. Studies using the umbilical cord blood stem cells have shown to differentiate into bone, cartilage, nerve, and blood tissue types (Kögler et al 123-135).
Besides, bone marrow stem cells can transdifferentiate into brain neurons, heart muscle, pancreatic and other body tissues. Some researchers say that adult stem cells are “almost like embryonic stem cells” only “better behaved”, with “a developmental repertoire close to that of embryonic stem cells” but less inclination to chaotic development as tumors (Clarke 1660-1663).
Today, human beings are faced with several health challenges that include stroke, injury, diabetes, heart problems, Parkinson’s disease, cancers of the brain, breast, ovary, testicle, blood, kidney, skin, and multiple myeloma, autoimmune diseases, and many other conditions. Stem cell research has the potential to find remedies for many of these diseases. Scientists also hope to use these potential cells to replace dysfunctional cells in the brain, spinal cord, pancreas, and other organs. Therefore it is the need of the hour to promote stem cell research. The adult stem cell has been proven to be as good as embryonic stem cells and research using adult stem cells need to be encouraged. In conclusion, it can be said that stem cells is an answer to multiple problems and research need to be encouraged.
Clarke D.L.et al, Generalized potential of adult neural stem cells, Science 288 (2000): 1660-1663.
McGuckin C.P. et al, Production of stem cells with embryonic characteristics from human umbilical cord blood, Cell Prolif 38 (2005): 245-255.
Kögler G. et al, A new human somatic stem cell from placental cord blood with intrinsic pluripotent differentiation potential, J Exp Med 200 (2004): 123-135.
National Bioethics Advisory Commission. Executive summary: Ethical issues in human stem cell research. (1999). Web.
National Institutes of Health. Stem cells: A primer. (2000). Web.
Study by K Syrjala in the Journal of Clinical Oncology reported in “Stem cell patients ‘are healthy’,” BBC News. Web.
Young, A.V. Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research. The Church of the England. Second edition. 2003: 2-16.