In what ways has popular opinion about Stem Cell research issues changed over the last decade and what caused the change?

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jerichorayel's profile pic

jerichorayel | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

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Stem Cell researches have been improving in the last decades since the start of its discovery. These cells are generally defined as a mass of cells which are undifferentiated that can further differentiate into specialized cells. It has been found out that stem cells play a big role in medical researches such as cancer research, transplants, diabetes and nervous system injuries. Stem cells come from two common sources: 1. Embryonic stem cells - cells isolated in the blastocysts or the structure that is first formed after fertilization in animals. 2. Adult stem cells - cells coming from tissues that function as repair cells.

Stem cells trigger several issues regarding medical ethics which led to banning of the procedures in some countries. The issues are mainly focused on embryonic stem cells since it can produce harm to developing embryos. In order to produce pluripotent embryonic stem cells, the blastocyst is destroyed. This is completely unethical to politics, American and European laws, and religions. 

The most popular opinion in the early 90's regarding the use of stem cells is linking it to abortion. American law has said that it is not ethical to destroy blastocyst since the beginning of life started in the fertilization of the egg cells. It can be classified as abortion since the fertilized egg was not given the chance to live. In fact, in the year 2008, the Vatican listed stem cell procedure as a new mortal sin. With ongoing debates regarding the ethical acceptance of embryonic stem cell, other factors are affected such as the funding, politics, sources and future researches. Stem cells are also linked with cloning, which is another side of the story that adds in the controversy of life ethics. 

How did the perception changed?

1. There are many other sources other than the embryonic stem cells. Pluripotent cells can be harvested form adult stem cells and can be used for researches. However, there is a limitation in using the adult stem cells because it is more specific than embryonic stems cells. 

2. There is a need for research: Embryonic stem cell research should continue. There may be ethical concerns about the use of these stem cells but the growing researches need to continue working on embryonic stem cells.

3. The consent of the donors: Since there are people who are desperately seeking for cure, some institutions are issuing permits or consent for their egg or sperm cells to be studied. It is not only for their benefit alone, but also for the next generation of their descendants.  

4. Diverse opinions: Other sects or religion said that stem cell research in general is pro-life since it can be a way to reduce human suffering. 

There are no standard of cure with regards to embryonic stem cell research. However, the experiments and clinical trials are giving good data and can be useful in the next years to come. 

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CaitlynnReeves's profile pic

CaitlynnReeves | Student, Grade 12 | (Level 1) Salutatorian

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I feel like, while stem cell research was greatly squtinized at first, public opnion on the subject has improved over the past decade. 

The two main reasons for this are 1) new information and 2) desperation. 

1) The biggest outrage concering stem cell research was the belief that the cells came from aborted fetuses. It has become more widely known that aborted fetuses are not the only source of stem cells. Amniotic fluid and bone marrow also contain stem cells. 

2) There are just too many possitive implications to stem cell research to abondon it. It seems to me that people have begun to realize that the problems that could be solved with stem cell technology are well worth tackling the ethical issues that need to be dealt with in order for research to continue. 

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rachellopez | Student, Grade 12 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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We hear a lot more about stem cell research today then we have in the past. Stem cell research can help us understand diseases and how they occur, but also help replace the diseased cells. This seems like an amazing thing that can help us cure diseases such as cancer, but some people are against the idea.

The United States had become very distant in stem cell research, mainly because of research policies from Bush. They said the policies were "...impacted by strong religious and anti-abortion views." When President Obama took charge, he removed those restrictions that held researchers back in hope that they would continue embryonic stem cell research.

The main argument against stem cell research is ethics. The cells used for research are obtained from early-stage embryos. Suggestions to use adult stem cells have been rejected because they do not have the same results. Research has picked back up and seem to be seen as more positive because it can save lives.

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