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Stem Cell Controversy

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 16 Nov 2020 | 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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this website was very useful for my biology homework.thanks
husna - 16-Nov-20 @ 7:28 PM
It is amazing how people take to religious people about science as if they are ignorant about science. If they only knew how science and faith go together. There are so many amazing scientists that are religious. It sometimes takes years for the Catholic Church to declare a miracle. Years of looking at it from a scientific point. The Vatican has some of the most amazing scientist of the world and also open the door to many amazing other science. Some atheists even have converted after working with them.
Bell - 6-Nov-20 @ 11:35 PM
This was great help in my church choir rehearsel. ty alot
yoi - 23-Nov-19 @ 6:39 PM
hi guys none of this makes sense does someone want to help. biology is very complicated. i dont waant to take notes on any of this stuff
ava the one and only - 9-Dec-18 @ 8:51 PM
WTF... guys... The guy named yamanaka shinya already discovered IPS cells before and we dont need to extract embryo cells anymore from human.
Guys - 18-Apr-18 @ 4:02 AM
I quickscope them pre-grown skrubs #rekt #LMAO
Xx_StemCellKillerrr_ - 27-Mar-18 @ 10:21 PM
What is the controversy of using embryonic stem cells?
Alice - 10-Mar-18 @ 8:03 AM
mydadmightbeaphsyco - 15-Feb-18 @ 2:37 PM
Lisa, I hope you know that you are a mass of cells as well. Therefore, you just technically stated that you are not alive, either. It is murder since single celled organisms are alive, and they can and should grow into an adult. Just because the baby is an inconvenience to the parent it doesn't mean that the baby or as you called it, the "lump of cells" is not alive and is perfectly and morally correct. It is not.
Storm - 6-Feb-18 @ 4:26 PM
Embryonic stem cells from abortions should be widely used. This could also provide FREE abortions since the aborted embryos stem cells can pay for the abortion.
Lisa - 2-Feb-18 @ 1:43 PM
There are no ethical considerations. An embryo is not a human being, not a life. It is a mass of cells. It cannot be 'murdered'. Religion is completely irrelevant. The majority of the population are not religious. Only scientific ethical debate is relevant.
Lisa - 2-Feb-18 @ 1:40 PM
Are there any citations for this article?
AFer - 2-Feb-18 @ 1:41 AM
thank you so much for this it helped me understand it so much
lit person - 29-Jan-18 @ 3:56 PM
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
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
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This is a good website thank you for making this thing

Our Response:
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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:
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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
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