What is a Stem Cell?
A stem cell is an undifferentiated cell that can differentiate into any specialized cells and can divide through mitosis to make more stem cells (1). They come from two different main sources: Embryos and Adult Tissues. Embryonic stem cells have the ability to change into any cell in the human body, since they are the beginning cell of a life form. Adult cells, also known as somatic cells, are very limited on what they can differentiate into. As of what we know now, they can only change into the organ that they have come from, but evidence has shown that they might have the potential to change into other organs also (2).
How do they Function?
Adult stem cells are the way the body repairs itself. They sit in our bodies and remain dormant until they receive a signal that says something is damaged and needs to be repaired. Then at that moment, they step in and start to separate and multiply into the specialized cell in order to repair the damage. Proteins within the cell tell it how fast it needs to work and then at what point they need to stop growing and dividing in order to maintain the correct shape and size of the organ (3). This is how one stem cell is able to differentiate to help heal or grow and organ.
How are they used in Biotechnology and Medicine?
There is a lot of research that is taking place around stem cells. With the potential to turn into any specialized cells, there are infinite ways that they can help in medicines and biotechnology. Organs and tissues could be recreated and mended so that donor transplants would no longer be required. This would help save thousands of people that die waiting for the chance to receive a new organ. Cancers and diseases could be cured in a way that the infected cells could just be replaced with new healthy ones that were created with the stem cells (2).
My Opinion on Stem Cell Research
Based on my research, in my opinion I believe that stem cell research should remain in only adult stem cells. Embryonic stem cells should not be used in research, biotechnologies, or medicine. The potential of the adult stem cells reaches far enough that embryos don’t need to be tampered with. What these adult stem cells can do is amazing and will change the medical world for the better.
Embryos should not be used in biotechnology or medicine. They are fertilized female eggs and are the beginning stages of a life form (2). I do not see this tampering any different than cloning humans. It is just not ethically correct, and nor is this. You are basically committing murder for personal gain. I understand that many people out there are desperate in their search for solutions and help, but how do you value one life form over another. Science has the capability to do endless things, but some things are just not dealt with because it is plain against the way life is valued and human ethics. From my understanding from what I have found, this is another one of these things that should not be tampered with.
Adult stem cells in biotechnology and medicines is an amazing thing however. The potential they are finding that these stem cells have is truly amazing. They can take a stem cell from many different organs and use proteins to make them react and help heal and recreate those organs (2). This is a more natural way to do this. Plus, these somatic stem cells not only can be obtained from organs, but from nearly any body tissue. Umbilical cords and placentas also contain stem cells that can be used for these purposes.
Cancer patients have one tough job of fighting these diseases and tumors. With some of them, transplants seem like they’re the only option and the waiting lists for these are rather huge. Months or even years may be waited without even getting what they need. A lot of these patients do not have that time, the damage is growing and their bodies won’t function properly. Somatic stem cells can help with this problem. Bone marrow cancers and blood cancers are fairly prevalent, with not very many sources of transplants and true solutions that stay. The hematopoietic stem cell (blood stem cell) is a stem cell found within the bone marrow that can be extracted in order to start creating more blood or bone marrow within the persons bones after the transplant so that the transplant wasn’t just a short term solution (5). This is an amazing way in my opinion to help these people overcome the cancers.
Stems Cells are truly amazing and the way to the future in Biotechnologies and Medicines, but this should not include embryonic stem cells. Between the somatic, umbilical cord, and all the other types of stem cells we are continuing to find, they do not need to be used. The ethics we humans have will start to diminish if this takes place. I view this no different than murdering a being for your personal gain. Somatic stem cells are the path to the future of human biotechnologies.