Over the last twenty years, one of the most controversial aspects of medical research and science has been the ethics of using stem cells for research. Stem cells are “master cells.” These master cells are capable of becoming any of the 200 cell types, cells that will eventually form bone, muscle, or human tissue. The most promising stem cells for research come from embryos that have been aborted or miscarried. Many people have an ethical issue with using cells from this source. Should science use these stem cells or not?
There is absolutely no reason not to use stem cells. We can cure so many diseases and conditions with this technology. Why not do it? These cells are not people. They are cells. I do not think we should clone people and use the clone's organs, but I see nothing wrong with stem cell research.
I don't believe stem cells should be used if harvested from aborted embryos. I had a stem cell transplant in March 2011 for a blood disease and the specialists here in Canada performed an "autologous" stem cell transplant. They used stem cells that they collected from my own body. They harvested them from my system and then froze them until I required infusion of them back into my system. Before infusion back into my system they gave me a very high dose of chemotherapy to eradicate malignant cells in my body. I also believe in "allogeneic" stem cell transplants, whereby a donor gives his or her stem cells to an individual.
Stem Cell Research
A few years ago, Environmental Health Perspectives reported on research being done in which the replicatory action of stems cells was derived from non-stem cells. Of course now, I've dug and dug and cannot find the article. Nonetheless, this is the beginning of a way to circumvent the stem cell ethics debate. However, since that is all I can say from memory, I'll say something else. Stem cell research has opened up a new teory on malignant cell production: these cells may in fact be stem sells that are arrested in development. The point here is that while some of us may not have made up our minds (seems I've always not made up my mind ...), both of these breakthroughs can be very important in weighing the factors tending for or against. On the against side, if the new development using ordinary cells continues to expand, there will less need for stem cells and greater outcome for scientific and health benefits. If the cause of malignant disease can be definitively traced to stem cells with arrested development, and it the origins of the arresting effect can be identified, then stem cell research will have been validated. I still haven't made up my mind, but there are lights on the horizon.
Stem Cell Institute
Dedifferentiation or stem cell maturation arrest? [Free PDF download]
In my opinion, scientists and medical researchers should be able to use embryonic stem cells for research purposes. The reason for this is that these cells are not, in my opinion, human life. I am not comfortable with the idea of aborting an actual fetus that has achieved or come near to viability. But stem cells do not seem to me to be anywhere close to this level. Many people believe that human life begins at conception. I am not one of them. I believe that human life begins at some point when the fetus becomes viable. When it is an embryo made up of only a few cells, it is far enough from being human life that I am comfortable with the idea of using it to benefit human beings who are alive by anyone's definition.
I am completely sympathetic with the concerns regarding use of aborted embryos to obtain stem cells for use in research. I find such procedures to be repulsive and disrespectful of the life that has been lost.
However, I also watched my mother's vision deteriorate due to Age-related Macular Degeneration, a frustrating and nontreatable condition that deprived her of many of the joys of life and took away much of her independence. Researchers are looking into using embryonic stem cells to deal with the causes of the condition. http://stemcells.nih.gov/research/scilit/highlights/
On behalf of my mother and the millions of others who suffer from Macular Degeneration, I think it is foolish to completely forbid the use of stem cells for research. There are other methods of obtaining stem cells besides using embryos, and there are too many potential benefits and miraculous cures potentially available if the research is allowed to move forward.
Stem cell research should be permissable for private organizations, as long as there is no "harvesting" of embryos going on. Some stem cell research does not involve destroying embryos, so that research should be fine for government support.