First research on stem cells began in the 1960’s. Researchers used the adult bone marrow, which contained the tissues that made up the white blood cells and the red blood cells. The earliest transplants were initiated fully in the 1970’s in treating immunodeficiency and cancer diseases. Stem cells are found in multicellular organisms; they have the ability of renewing themselves through a cell division process, and they are able to grow into various specialized cell types.
In modern medicine, stem cell research is believed to help in treatment of human diseases, particularly in cases of leukemia where bone marrow transplant is used. If the research continues, it is likely that a variety of diseases ranging from spinal cord injuries, Parkinson`s disease, muscle damage to cancer will be treated effectively with stem cells (Connolly 1). Presently, stem cells are widely researched on, and scientists in this field are determined to carry on with their research for the cell therapy being a major goal. Notwithstanding some positive sides and benefits promised by stem cell therapy, the issue causes serious moral controversies and heated debates on its effectiveness in society.
TYPES OF STEM CELLS
The classification of stem cells distinguishes five categories based on their potency and ability to grow into other cell types in the human body. Stem cells begin to produce during sexual reproduction since the moment of fertilization, eventually forming a zygote, which matures into specialized cells called ‘pluripotent stem cells’. Pluripotent stem cells are the second type of stem cell, which are able to disintegrate into different cell types. The common types of these cells are embryonic stem cells and fetal stem cells. The third type of stem cells is called multipotent stem cells, which differentiate to a given limited number of other cell types. Bone marrow stem cell belongs to this category; it is able to produce any blood cell type. Umbilical stem cells and adult stem cells are perfect examples of multipotent stem cells. Oligopotent stem cells are the fourth type. These cells are able to grow into only few cell types. Among the examples is the lymphoid stem cell, which develops into any blood cell type, just like the bone marrow stem cells do. Unipotent stem cells are the last category; these cells have an unlimited production capability; however, they are able to create cells of a singular type only. Skin cells are a perfect example of the unipotent cells.
A stem cell is required to have two defining properties, it should be self-renewal and have unlimited potency; this way, the ability of cell cycles should be fully utilized in maintaining the undifferentiated state and development into mature cells. Since stem cells can develop and change into enhanced cells, their use in medicine is encouraged (Singer 230-245). Therefore, a keen emphasis should be taken when undertaking research in stem cells as the therapy has a number of benefits as highlighted below. The embryonic stem cells generated from therapeutic cloning and adult stem cells from the umbilical cord or bone marrow are extremely promising in modern and future medical research. Embryos are very rich in stem cells, which have the potential of growing into any human part and any body organ. In the future, many people, who are suffering from kidney, liver, and heart problems, will be able to receive effective treatment with the use of this stem cell research. The stem cells of embryos can grow to supplement the broken or sick part of the human body. The research on stem cells asserts that they can cure diabetic of the I and II types, which involves transplantation of small cell areas. This happens because of the renewal nature of the stem cells as the stem cells can regenerate into multifunctional cells, which help to supplement the body`s immune system. This will greatly help people with disabilities and those suffering from failing body organs. According to these facts, stem cell research is reasonable since it may bring many beneficial outcomes to the human race. On the other hand, stem cell research rises some concerns and poses certain risks, which are considered below.
WHY IS STEM CELL RESEARCH DANGEROUS?
Stem cell research involves the use of human embryos, which is a major controversy about the issue. As there are heated debates on when life begins, stem cell research is usually compared to abortion and intentional homicide. Obviously, life begins at the moment of conception, and the question is whether a human embryo (the earliest development stage of a life) can be destroyed for the purpose of harvesting stem cells and distributing them to people with respective ailments. The result is the killing of the innocent babies (embryos), by putting them on trial, which seems to be illogic and wrong even though they are not born humans.
The embryonic stem cell treatments, in essence, are not successful at all, since many patients treated with this therapy have ended up getting cancer because of the transplants. When the patient is treated with embryonic stem cells, the treatment usually causes tumors, which grow in the brain or the spinal cord, depending on where the transplant is done. Hence, such facts leave little trust in the stem cell research. The tumors, also referred to as monster tumors, are known to grow in size tremendously, which can be compared to soccer ball. This is a clear indication of the failures and drawbacks of the stem cell research. Therefore, any government should not fund such practices as it contributes to posing dangers to the human life that it seeks to protect. In addition, the latest discoveries on induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSCs) by Shinya Yamanaka open new perspectives for the future effective treatment of people with illnesses and disabilities. In addition, since these cells are derived artificially, the process does not require killing of embryos.
In many cultures, the embryos are viewed as an alive developing human being. When arguing from the Christian point of view, life begins at the moment of conception. Nowadays, a few individuals are using the stem cells for selfish gains, knowing very well that they are killing lives of innocent babies (embryos). As this action can be considered an intentional homicide, this practice should not be allowed to continue. In fact, stem cells are not acceptable in therapy since they cause tumorogenesis when they are transplanted to any compatible host. The stem cells have also been known to suffer from the normal compatibility of tissue problems, which commonly affects the donors. Therefore, there is an urgent need to adopt alternative technologies, for example, the technique, which involves reprogramming of adult skin cells that, if once pursued, will eliminate the problems associated with tissue rejection issues commonly characterized with embryonic stem cells. The use of the alternative therapies will also be cheaper and cause fewer problems associated directly with the patient; hence, it will be more economical and appropriate for patients suffering from diseases than the stem cells treatment.