stem cell research and its future. The writer explores the history behind the research and then opens the debate on both sides, giving the reader the pros and cons from the vantage points of those who are involved with it. The writer then wraps the whole thing up with a discussion about how stem cell research can be allowed to continue so that the world can reap the benefits while still protecting the extremely strong feelings of the opposition. There were 10 sources used to complete this paper.
THE FUTURE LOOKS BRIGHT FOR STEM CELL RESEARCH
For the last several years, the debates around stem cell research have raged with emotions that run high. Those who are against it, line their reasons up and present them with fervor, while those who are for the research being continued, throw their own reasons into the mix. It is an international debate in which nations are drawing lines in the sand and taking sides either for or against the issue. It does not look like a debate that will be settled any time soon, which is unfortunate because the research could progress much more quickly if the political ramifications were removed. Stem cell research has promise to revolutionize the medical community. The breadth and scope of its abilities are seemingly endless, and it offers hope for the future in ways that the world never dreamed possible before. With millions of people waiting world wide for transplants that will never come in time, children dying daily from cancer that cannot be cured, and immune system problems that shorten lifespan in decades not years, the promise stem cell research holds is a shining light (Connor, pp 8). As the debates continue, it is important that the world find a way to continue the research, while working to educate the public as to what stem cell research is and what it isn’t. Education will be the key that opens the door for the research. When people realize it is not going to suddenly see clones of each other walking out of labs and into the streets, but it will offer hope to millions of otherwise hopeless medical patients, the support will increase, the funding will increase and the world will break a new barrier for a better quality of life. The child who is cured of cancer may grow up to find a cure for AIDS, the grandfather who has his immune system boosted may raise his grandchildren when their parents are killed suddenly, or the woman who gets a new pancreas someday, thanks to stem cell research, may go on to spearhead a national organization that saves thousands of abused or neglected children. Stem cell research is not about making new people, it is about maintaining the life and productivity of the people who are here, much in the same way the invention of antibiotics and insulin did at their debuts.
WHAT IS THE NEED?
In the last three decades, medical science has made progress that allows people to live longer than ever before. For the most part that lengthened life span has included a higher quality of life than their predecessors had before them. While the longer life and the higher quality are a positive medical accomplishment there are negative effects that have been caused by the ability as well (Capell, 85). With people living longer than before, there are several areas of medical science that re being negatively affected. Transplant patients are at the top of the list for those who are suffering the effects of longer and healthier life spans. Transplant patients often die while waiting for a suitable donor to become available. Nobody likes to think about the fact that allowing people to live longer means those waiting for transplants die, but in basic terms that is exactly what happens. Because science can now treat so many things from accidents and illness, that they could not before, the donor list is much older and less available than in past years. Another area of negative impact that the longer life span has caused is the fact that those who do become ill or injured are being kept alive even through their suffering. It is a phenomenon that is causing many controversies and as the population continues to age it will continue to be a problem. Those who become ill are often treated with enough medical knowledge to stay alive, but the medical community cannot make them feel healthy again. These are just two of the reasons that stem cell research needs to be supported and allowed to continue worldwide. Refusing to allow the research to continue, as the world continues to age, will cause conflicts in patient care, and quality of life issues in the future. Some of the problems are already beginning to surface, as well-known celebrities are allowed to get transplants without much of a wait while the regular people die on the list. The ability to continue stem cell research may alleviate many of these issues in the future and save lives that would otherwise be lost (Wang pg 70).
The idea is to move forward while the politicians play out the drama. This can be done by constantly working to educate the public and being careful to keep the research focused on the savings of lives not the creating of lives (Dept pg). There are many exciting breakthroughs occurring in stem cell research currently that show promise when it comes to many medical needs. This is the aspect of stem cell research that needs to be explained to the public as often as necessary to gain the public’s support for the research.
Scientists have discovered that young undifferentiated cells are showing the most promise for the future of patients with a need.
At this stage the cell can be lead to take many different paths including producing different tissues such as skin, blood and organs (Merry pg 89). This ability needs further research because it may hold the answer to the problems with the well-publicized transplant lists. If scientists are allowed to continue the research on these cells the future may allow the medical community to do away with transplant donors all together as it will be possible to produce needed supplies through cells. This will allow many things to change for transplant patients, including the real events of trying to perform transplants in the final hours of the transplant’s person’s life, when the risk of surgery is increased and the hope of full recovery is decreased. Being able to produce the organs through stem cell research, will allow patients to schedule the surgery when they are first determined to need it and when they are at optimum conditions to withstand the procedure. “Stem cells are currently used in patients who must undergo chemotherapy or radiation as part of their treatment. In these cases, cells are removed from the patient prior to treatment who must then wait for their body to bring these cells back to normal levels before treatment. After chemotherapy or radiation, which kills not only the targeted cancerous cells but also healthy blood cells, the stem cells are injected back into the patient. These cells help the patient’s immune system recover from the treatment and it’s devastating effect on their blood cells. A huge advantage that using neural stem cells would provide is that they can be propagated indefinitely in a culture. ”
The basic premise of the plan is to encourage the public to support the idea, while encouraging private entities to fund it. This would allow the politicians to be removed form the debate and cause the public to have less say in its outcome. This does not mean the public should be ignored. The public should be educated each step of the way with the positive aspects being presented as the research uncovers them.
The advantage of continuing the research is that when the public becomes acclimated as it did with insulin and antibiotics the medical community has not wasted years waiting for that approval and then moving forward. The medical community can continue the research as the public is becoming acclimated to the idea and the education continues. While the medical field may not get to use its findings in the manner that it hoped right away it will make headway and get to do some research as well as be ready when the argument ends and the research is supported.
If one removes all of the religious reasons that the opposition wants to stop the advancement if stem cell research the world is left with one negative aspect of the research. The funding for it is quite expensive and there is a worldwide effort to obtain the funds each year to continue (Polgar, pp 15). Because of the strong opposition to stem cell research many politicians are hesitant to vote to earmark funds for its advancement (Munro pg 65). Funding in any scientific arenas proves to be a major hurdle but in the area of stem cell research those with the power to release government funding hesitate to do so as long as such an evenly divided debate rages around the topic (Bookman, D1). “Some scientists say that, given enough money and time, they can build a tower of knowledge that can answer all questions about humankind. Until that distant day, however, it is lawmakers who have to slog through competing scientific claims and decide where to put federal dollars for medical research and what ethical restraints to put on such studies. That’s what is going on right now in the hot-button debate over human stem-cell research (Munro pg 65).. Scientists are divided over the priorities and ethics of stem-cell research. One broad faction maintains that the promise of stem-cell research is so great, the federal government should add its money and prestige to what so far has been a strictly private-sector research effort. This faction also says federal research money should go to research on all kinds of stem cells-both the highly versatile ones drawn from human embryos, and the somewhat less versatile ones drawn from human adults. The opposing faction says federal research should be done only on stem cells from adults, so as not to encourage additional abortions, or the manufacture, and destruction, of human embryos (Munro pg 65). ”
All of these causes and arguments place a burden on the politicians who have to decide to fund it. One of the answers may be to stop asking the government and search exclusively ion private sectors. This will mean competition in the market place however, if it gets the research funded than it might be the best solution (Broadway, B09).
Because of the federal debate issues and the funding problems the research is years behind what scientists feel it should be. The research shows promise to make people who have become paralyzed able to walk again, as well as other neurological cures but without finding and approval it remains stalled in a time warp (Johnson pp PG). The plan calls for the research to take its projects to the private sector and allow the private companies to provide the funding for the research to continue. This allows the medical community to move forward while at the same time working on the political community to support the efforts. The public will warm to the idea, just as it has the past medical breakthroughs. There was time that people believed seizures were devil possessions of those having them. Eventually the public learned better. It is the same scenario with the stem cell research debate. The public will warm and when it does politicians will support it but until then the field must move ahead so that when the public says yes the community is ready.
Capell, Kerry “Science & Technology: Stem Cells: AT RISK: A GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY IN BIOTECH.,” Business Week, 09-10-2001, pp 85
Munro, Neil SCIENCE: A Debate That Stems From Human Cells., National Journal, 05-26-2001. pp 65
A.S. Wang, MIT president joins other university heads in supporting stem cell research., University Wire, 04-11-2001. pp 70
US DEPT OF HHS: Fact sheet on stem cell research., M2 PressWIRE, 02-01-1999.
Polgar, Paul. Who is funding stem cell research?., University Wire, 10-08-2001 pp 15.
Bookman, Jay. Divided over STEM CELLS The escalating debate over the potential of using human embryos in treating a variety of diseases pits medical researchers against right-to-life groups.., The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, 07-08-2001, pp D1.
Merry, Tom. Student’s research may herald new understanding of stem cells., University Wire, 02-03-1999. pp 89
Broadway, Bill. Faith Is a Force On Both Sides of Stem Cell Debate; Religious Communities Split Sharply On Permitting Embryonic Research., The Washington Post, 08-04-2001, pp B09.
Johnson, Aaron. Wash U.-St. Louis professor discusses stem cell research., University Wire, 09-06-2001.
Connor, Steve The miracle cure with a catch., Independent, 08-11-2000, pp 8.