Stem Cell Research: Adult and Induced Pluripotent


One may ask themselves, what exactly are stem cells? It could be said stem cells are an undifferentiated cell of an organism that is able to produce indefinitely more cells of the same type, and from which other cells could arise from differentiation. [1] (Differentiation being the process by which a less specialized cell grows to attain a more distinct form and function.) More simply put, a stem cell is a cell that does not yet have an existing function, but they may become any existing cell.

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Stem cells have two major functions in the body. One, found in the embryo of a developing mammal is responsible for differentiating into the specialized cells. Another is found in adult tissues. It is responsible for acting as a repair system in the body. There are three sources from which stem cells can be accessed. They are blood, adipose tissues, and bone marrow. Another source is blood from the umbilical cord. These sources, some of the safer methods of harvesting stem cells, are called autologous, meaning from one’s own body. The most controversial of sources is embryonic stem cells. [2]

Embryonic stem cells are stem cells derived from embryos fertilized in vitro. They are fertilized in a clinic for stem cell research with consent from the donors. They modify the cells by inserting specific genes. After years of experimentation, scientists have found basic protocols to make specific cell types. In the future they may be able to treat certain diseases like Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, traumatic spinal cord injury and heart disease with this method.

Adult stem cells, also called somatic stem cells, are not yet specialized and serve the purpose to repair the tissue in which they are found. These cells have been used for forty years and may become the basis of transplantation-based therapies.  Possible uses of the somatic stem cells are regenerating bone using cells derived from bone marrow, cells that produce insulin for type 1 diabetes, and repairing a heart muscle damaged after a heart attack.

Induced pluripotent stem cells are adult stem cells are adult stem cells reprogrammed to act like embryonic stem cells. There is still a lot of research that needs to go into this type of cell, but it is already helpful in drug development and scientists have hope to use it in transplantation medicine. A drawback is that viruses are used to reprogram the cell, but may cause cancer. However, if researchers can find a way to reprogram without a virus the induced pluripotent stem cell will become an almost identical copy of the donor, therefore avoiding rejection by the immune system. [3]

I think that the adult stem cell and induced pluripotent methods are acceptable. Embryonic stem cells, however, is not. Adult stem cells do not harm the donor and help the recipient.  Induced pluripotent stem cells hurt no one and have potential to be very helpful. However, embryonic stem cells are taking the life of a child.

            I believe life begins at conception. Although it happens within a clinic, it is still a life being created and destroyed. While there may be benefits from using embryonic stem cells, it is safer and does not involve taking a life when adult stem cells or induced pluripotent stem cells are used. Therefore, I believe that research should be more focused on induced pluripotent and adult stem cells, and that the use of embryonic stem cells should be discontinued.

            Adult stem cells are very useful. They do not have a negative impact on the donor and can successfully save the recipient. I have had a personal experience with this. One of my relatives had leukemia and received a stem cell transplant. Her life was successfully extended for three years. It is a safe and proven method that has already been used for forty years. I believe this is an acceptable method of deriving stem cells.

            Induced pluripotent stem cells are very similar to both adult stem cells and embryonic, as they once were adults, but were simply reprogrammed to act like a pluripotent stem cell. I think this method is far more acceptable than using actual embryonic stem cells. Although there is still much research to be done, I think it is worth our while to really research induced pluripotent stem cells. Rejection by the immune system can be a huge problem with adult stem cells, but can be avoided if we can successfully create induced pluripotent stem cells.

            In conclusion, adult stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells are acceptable methods, whereas embryonic stem cells are not. This is due to the fact that you are taking a life by destroying the embryo. Adult stem cells are safe and work well without harming anyone. Induced pluripotent stem cells have amazing potential to save lives and cure diseases.