Casey Cretcher English 103; Section 083 Asher John Research Paper 10/17/2010 The Stem Cell Debate: Embryonic vs Adult Stem Cells On August 9th, 2001, President George W. Bush announced that federal funding would only be available for research preformed on Human Embryonic Stem Cell lines which were already in existence. This meant that research may only be performed on the 21 lines of Human Embryonic Stem Cells which were in existence at the time. However, any and all research performed on Adult Stem Cells remains entirely unrestricted as far as federal funding goes. Stem Cells are essentially the most basic building blocks of human body. By definition, “Stem Cells have three general properties: they are capable of dividing and renewing themselves for long periods; they are unspecialized; and they can give rise to specialized cell types.” (Parson, 13) In essence, cells which normally cannot reproduce such as muscle cells, blood cells, or nerve cells may be recreated by Stem Cells which can reproduce many times over. This means that this particular field of research could be invaluable in curing many different ailments such as Alzheimer’s Disease, Cancer, and
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Cardiovascular Disease by replacing damaged or destroyed cells with Stem Cells which have been developed into the required cell type. (Parson) If the United States Government has revoked federal funding on any and all newly created Human Embryonic Stem Cell lines, but has allowed unrestricted funding of Adult Stem Cell lines, then why would scientists even bother with Embryonic Stem Cells? Would it not simply be easier to use Adult Stem Cells instead? The fact that scientists continue to fight for the use of Embryonic Stem Cells, as opposed to simply using Adult Stem Cells, means there must be some sort of difference between the two. If they were both equally useful, then restricting federal funding on Embryonic Stem Cells would be a non-issue, within the scientific community, due to the unrestricted access their Adult counterparts. The point is, logically, Embryonic Stem Cells have traits and properties which make them more useful in research when compared to Adult Stem Cells. Embryonic Stem Cells are cells which have not yet matured into their adult counterparts. As their name suggests, they are derived from human embryos . Most Embryonic Stem cells are derived from embryos that develop from eggs that have been fertilized in vitro, in an in vitro fertilization clinic, and are then donated for research purposes with informed consent of the donors. Contrary to popular belief, they are not derived from eggs fertilized in a woman's body. (Health 2009) An adult stem cell is thought to be a versatile cell, found among normal cells in a tissue or organ that can renew itself and can differentiate to yield some or all of the major
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specialized cell types of the tissue or organ. The primary roles of adult stem cells in a living organism are to maintain and repair the tissue in which they are found. (Health 2009) Embryonic Stem Cells and Adult Stem Cells each have their own advantages and disadvantages over each other. One major difference between the two is their potential for reproducing and forming different types of cells found within the human body. A study performed at the Laboratory of Stem Cell Bioengineering in Alencon, France shows that Embryonic Stem Cells are pluripotent: meaning they can become any and all types of cells in the human body, while Adult Stem cells are limited to differentiating into different cell types of their tissue of origin (e.g. Adult Stem Cells garnered from your muscles can only be used to create muscle cells). (Health 2009) Another study performed by the Laboratory of Stem Cell Bioengineering in Alencon, France shows that Embryonic Stem Cells are also very easily cultivated in a laboratory setting; while Adult Stem Cells are harder to find within the mature tissue of a full grown person, which increases the difficulty in isolating them for use. This is a very important distinction due to the large number of Stem Cells which would be required for any sort fof useful Stem Cell replacement therapies. (Peter,
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43) One key difference, which is in favor of Adult Stem Cells, is the fact that they are much less likely to be rejected after a successful transplantation. “A patient's own cells could theoretically be expanded in culture, coaxed into assuming a specific cell type, and then reintroduced into the patient.” (Holland, 24) Embryonic Stem Cells, just like a regular organ transplant, would have to be used with immunosuppressive drugs to negate the chance of rejection by the host’s immune system. The use of said drugs could possibly elicit negative side-effects in the patient. (Holland, 33) In conclusion, Embryonic Stem Cells have the advantage of being relatively easier to find, relatively easier to cultivate, and are sort of a “Jack of All Trades” in the sense that they can be used to create nearly any type of cell in the human body. On the other hand, while Adult Stem Cells are harder to find, reproduce, and transition into other cells; they are much less likely to be rejected by a patient’s immune system due to the use of the patient’s own cells. If scientists can one day iron out all of the difficulties with Adult Stem Cells, they will inevitably be a much wiser choice in Stem Cell treatments as compared to Embryonic Stem Cells. However, as they stand now, Embryonic Stem Cells are more valuable for research due to their pluripotency and availability for use.
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Works Cited Holland, Suzanne. The Human Embryonic Stem Cell Debate: Science, Ethics, and Public Policy. Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 2001. Print. Parson, Ann. The Proteus Effect: Stem Cells and Their Promise for Medication. Washington DC: Joseph Henry Press, 2004. Print. Peter, Ted. The Stem Cell Debate. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2007. Print. "Stem Cell Research." National Institute of Health. 28 Apr. 2009. 30 Oct. 2010. Web.