Few debates have so galvanized the American audience more then the debate on embryonic stem cell research. In the early and mid 2000’s, embryonic stem cell research took the country by storm with its promises and ethical considerations. While other forms of stem cell research have moved past this dilemma, there is still a great deal to consider about this subject.
Now that some time has gone by since this issue originally came to light, lets take a moment to review the pros and cons associated with embryonic stem cell research. Before we do that however, lets place this in the correct context by explaining what embryonic stem cells are, as well as what the research concerning them hoped to accomplish.
What Are Embryonic Stem Cells?
Embryonic stem cells are cells that are found and harvested from a blastocryst, an early-stage human embryo that forms 4 to 5 days after fertilization. These cells are remarkable in that they have the ability to become any cell in the human body. While our bodies are full of highly specialized cells, they lack for the most part the ability to switch their role. A stomach cell for example cannot become a heart cell and vise versa. With embryonic stem cells, each cell will become whatever it is close to.
What Does Embryonic Stem Cell Research Do?
Embryonic stem cell research fertilizes eggs in a lab setting and then harvests these cells 4-5 days after fertilization. The cells are then used in a number of different experiments to test tissue engineering, tissue transplants, and to repair damaged DNA. There are currently a number of different theories regarding embryonic stem cell research, with fewer tried experiments. By using the embryonic stem cells in research, the cells and the embryo are irrevocably harmed.
What Are the Pros of Embryonic Stem Cell Research?
1. As we began to get into above, the pros of embryonic stem cell research is that the cells harvest might help in either curing or remediating a number of otherwise debilitating diseases and conditions. Embryonic stem cell research holds the promise of helping to make life better for millions of people through the myriad of tested and untested uses.
2. Further research also holds the promise of new insights into the design and makeup of individuals, leading to unseen discoveries. While short of being a panacea, embryonic stem cell research holds the promise of helping millions. Whether in the spinal cord, brain, or organs, embryonic stem cell research has considerable promise to improving our lives.
What Are the Cons of Embryonic Stem Cell Research?
1. One of the biggest cons to embryonic stem cell research as opposed to other stem cell research is that federal funds are banned to be used on them. Past-President George W. Bush signed into law a ban on using any federal funds on embryonic stem cell research. Now it should be noted that this does not ban research outright. In fact, funds from private or state groups can still be used to research embryonic stem cells. However, the federal government is a huge provider of research dollars for exploratory research in the United States. Without federal dollars, this line of research can be very challenging.
2. An addition con to the use of embryonic stem cells for research are the ethical considerations. Being what promoted George W. Bush to ban the use of federal funds, embryonic stem cell research involves fertilizing a human egg with sperm. Many individuals, especially those within the religious community, see this as an act of creating life. Even though the blastocryst resembles nothing more then a lump of cells, it is argued that because it has the potential to become a human being, it should be treated with the same rights as a human being. At the very least, it should be afforded some level of protection against destruction. Because embryonic stem cell research destroys the cells, the possibility for life is stopped. Because of this and its similarity to the issue of abortion and the religious considerations of where life begins, some individuals struggle with the ethics behind the research.
A Pro Con Question
Embryonic stem cell research offers the possibility to improve the health and lives of millions of individuals. However, the research to do this robs fertilized embryos the potential to become individuals. While there were never any plans to bring any of the fertilized embryos to term by implanting them in a woman, the question of whether life is denied is still asked. In addition, many people consider the pros and cons and formulate this question. “Are the benefits that can be given to millions worth the ethical considerations associated with the embryonic stem cell research?” Ultimately this becomes a question that only you can answer.