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Stem Cell Controversy

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 20 Nov 2017 | comments*Discuss
Embryonic Embryo Foetal Foetus Stem

Mention the word 'foetus' and heated controversy is likely to soon follow. This is particularly the case in the field of embryonic stem cell research.

Embryonic stem cells are derived from the foetus-research into the therapeutic properties of these stem cells and have triggered massive debate amongst politicians, religious groups, the general public and lastly, a minority of scientists.

Good and Bad of the Stem Cell Debate

Opponents of embryonic stem cell research compare the destruction of an embryo to an abortion. They believe that the embryo constitutes life because it has the potential to fully develop into a human being. Those against embryonic stem cell use believe that is it immoral and unethical to destroy one life to save another.

By using stem cells and discarding the embryo, it is thought that human life is ultimately de-valued by this act and is paving a slippery slope for further scientific procedures that similarly de-value life. In particular, many religious groups who are adamantly pro-life have condemned embryonic stem cell research and all of its applications. Other arguments against embryonic stem cells cite the fact that adult stem cells are the ones currently being used in therapies and thus, there is no need to even venture into embryonic stem cell territory.

Those who support embryonic stem cell research believe that an embryo is not equivalent to human life because it is inside the womb. Supporters also contend that the societal costs of many diseases and conditions, both in monetary and suffering aspects, means that the ethical concerns regarding embryonic stem cell usage are not sufficient to warrant discontinuation of this promising therapy.

Another argument for embryonic stem cell research is that the embryos are leftover from in-vitro fertilisation and would otherwise be destroyed, so they should instead be put to greater use. Even further down the line in development is the belief that those embryos from legal abortions, which have already been destroyed, would be better used to advance human health rather than simply discarded.

Any Solutions to this Conundrum?

Fortunately, there are alternatives but they are far from perfect and they do still require further research before they can be used with an acceptable level of success. Two new embryonic stem cell treatments avoid the foetal destruction by either:
  • Deriving embryonic stem cells without destructing the foetus
  • Obtaining embryonic stem cells without actually creating a foetus
In altered nuclear transfer (ANT), an embryo is not created. A derivative of somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), the nucleus of the somatic cell (any body cell other than an egg) is altered, or genetically reprogrammed, prior to being transferred into the egg. The alteration consequence is that the somatic cell DNA still produces stem cells but does not generate an embryo.

In blastomere extraction, an embryo is created but not destroyed. This procedure is performed on a two-day old embryo, following the division of the fertilised egg into eight blastomeres or cells. Previously, the techniques used for harvesting involving the derivation of embryonic stem cells at a later developmental stage, when the embryo is made up of approximately 150 cells. When these cells were harvested, the embryo was destroyed. Embryonic stem cells can instead be extracted from blastomeres, therefore preventing embryo destruction and allowing use of stem cells for research and therapeutic treatment of disease.

The other alternative is to strictly use adult stem cells because these are derived from adult tissues. The therapeutic potential is lower, however, because adult stem cells can't differentiate into as many different types of cells as can embryonic stem cells. They are also more likely to have developed genetic abnormalities over time and they don't tend to replicate as efficiently.

It is unlikely that a comprehensive solution will be found for the embryonic stem cell debate anytime soon. In the meantime, both national and international policies along with collective public views will likely guide the research and therapy efforts for Embryonic Stem Cells. There is no doubt that stem cells have great potential for treating disease but there unfortunately still remain doubts as to the ethical and moral ramifications of pursuing this potential.

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[Add a Comment]
I think the embryo being destroyed is simpilar to abortion because it's still taking away something that could come to life.
Julianna - 17-Nov-17 @ 6:41 PM
They take them from umbilical cords and they don't harm the mother or child because the mother is getting rid of it anyway. There is nothing wrong with that.
facts - 1-Mar-17 @ 7:13 PM
The greatest advances in stem-cell research so far have come through adult stem-cell research: Dozens of therapeutic uses have been developed and are currently in use. And the discovery of amniotic stem cells may well provide scientists with all the advantages that they had hoped to derive from ESCR, but without any of the moral objections.(about religion) Adult stem cell is so much better.
Someone - 17-Feb-17 @ 12:42 AM
Lies with the "destroy one life to save another" because adult stem cells are JUST AS GOOD for research, but you don't do 1st degree murder.
Someone - 16-Feb-17 @ 4:04 AM
HarleyQuinn - Your Question:
I'm researching the disadvantages of stem cells for my Academic Biology Class, so this is pretty helpful. I'm glad websites like this exist.

Our Response:
We are glad it has helped you with the information you need.
ExploreStemCells - 24-Jan-17 @ 11:43 AM
I'm researching the disadvantages of stem cells for my Academic Biology Class, so this is pretty helpful. I'm glad websites like this exist.
HarleyQuinn - 23-Jan-17 @ 2:04 PM
Thank you for some insight on how the opposing side might think. I still don't see how their argument is valid, but I see where they're coming from. I only wish that one day, people will be educated enough to appreciate medical studies.
Aplastic Anemia Surv - 4-Jan-17 @ 8:55 PM
not very helpful for some research
student999999999 - 29-Sep-16 @ 5:09 PM
How can i know if that particular stem cell could effectively went to the damage site (eg: liver damage) and treat the disease? - in context of regenerative medicine.
Janet - 13-Jun-16 @ 3:21 AM
hi hi hi hi- Your Question:
This is a good website thank you for making this thing

Our Response:
We are glad it can be of help.
ExploreStemCells - 14-Apr-16 @ 12:25 PM
this is a good website thank you for making this thing
hi hi hi hi - 13-Apr-16 @ 5:31 PM
jaynika- Your Question:
Love this website!!!!!!! Doing a research essay about this!

Our Response:
We are glad it can help you out.
ExploreStemCells - 7-Apr-16 @ 1:58 PM
Love this website!!!!!!! Doing a research essay about this!
jaynika - 6-Apr-16 @ 11:32 PM
Thank you for this wonderful article! Very helpful information.
Penny - 2-Sep-15 @ 3:57 AM
@JaneDoe - I am glad the article has been of help.
ExploreStemCells - 30-Apr-15 @ 11:01 AM
I'm in an ethics class this semester in college. I've learned so much through my class and seeing the comments put here just make me laugh. This is not a site to play out your he said/she said religious arguments and call each other names. As long as the stem cell events coincide with the doctrine of double effect, they are considered ethical,whether a person likes it or not, or whether they're Christian or not. Those details do not matter.You can disagree with it all you want, but just because one person thinks it's unethical, won't change the fact that it is ethical. Just had to get that off my chest. And no it was not directed at anyone. And if you take offense,it's your own fault. On to my main point.... I don't know who the main creator(s) of this site are, but thank you for all the different articles on stem cell research and possible applications of it. This site is helping to add some extra color to my paper.
JaneDoe - 27-Apr-15 @ 2:53 PM
@Paco - the author is listed at the top of this page as Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc.
ExploreStemCells - 16-Apr-15 @ 2:20 PM
Who wrote this article. Can you please give me the citing information please.
Paco - 14-Apr-15 @ 2:20 PM
I think that with ANT, it is questionable, but at least no human life was ever created. It's morally questionable of going against God's plan for DNA. However, human life was never conceived without an embryo being created. Also, without destroying the life is likely still to risky unless it can be proven that there will be no consequences in the future of that life. These new techniques may prove to be acceptable without killing a fetus or an embryo. However, they are still questionable and forever will be questionable in the future*. * it may be less morally questionable in the future
knips - 30-Jan-15 @ 2:07 PM
CD, I believe you are missing the fundamental point of Christianity: Jesus *chose* to die to save believers from eternal punishment. Until you have all of the information from all of the sides, my friend, your argument is invalid-- and you have no right to be calling names (besides the fact that it's just all around unprofessional.) Now, it is one thing to choose to be a sacrifice for the greater good like what the Bible teaches about Jesus, and another completely to elect to destroy an innocent life without the potential person that that embryo can become giving their consent. This is why Christians have no problem with people posthumously donating their bodies to science, but who would you give the right to speak for you when you cannot speak for yourself? That is the problem here.
Inquisitor - 16-Dec-14 @ 12:12 AM
Im practising for my final exam and i came across this embryonic stem cell and i think its quite enteresting
Lilly - 11-Nov-14 @ 5:38 PM
i am doing a project at school in *th grade and my teacher said we have to write and argumentitive essay on wther taking cells from an embryo is right or and i found this page and it is veryu pleazing
tig - 18-Sep-14 @ 2:42 PM
I was doing a research and this helped a lot. It provides both sides to the argument and possible solutions. Extremely helpful.
Isabella - 2-Sep-14 @ 8:11 PM
to cd over there, What Jesus did is different.. He saved us from eternal death. And excuse me we are not hyprocrites, we just value lives.
paulaNICK - 28-Aug-14 @ 6:08 AM
This site has people that are incredibly uneducated. Evidently people should just let the science people just do there work and there shouldn't be questions asked. Easy
Hotman - 27-Aug-14 @ 2:43 AM
Whomever said that christans are hypocrites are just plain ignorant saying thats what jesus did taking the bible for and alter the word of god is disrespectful only god gives life and only god can take it we as a human race have decided otherwise just because we say its right doesnt make it right.
rayray - 26-Aug-14 @ 5:51 PM
Sacrifice one to save many... wait, isn't this what Jesus did?Died to save others?Christians can be so hypocritical.
CD - 26-Jul-14 @ 10:30 PM
Also the fact that is in womb does not mean it is not equivalent. The fact that it is and embryo without a formed mind is why it is not equivalent
Thad - 15-Jul-14 @ 5:40 AM
This was very helpful for my speech
Thadeus - 15-Jul-14 @ 5:35 AM
The writer is correct when he says "because it is inside the womb." A embryo in this situation means a baby. If the unborn baby is not inside the womb, where is it?
syd - 11-Jul-14 @ 9:24 PM
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