New stem cell research development has put ethical dilemma debate in the dark
Recently in the last 2 to 3 years scientists have developed new ways of producing stem cells without killing embryos
A stem cell is a comparatively unspecialised cell that is able of being reproduced and under the right conditions can transform into another type of specialised tissue cell. Stem cells can be transformed into any tissue within the body. Tissues such as the heart and other organs which can then effectively take the place of spoiled or unhealthy organs and treat medical situations such as Parkinson’s disease, diabetes and spinal injuries. This growth of body parts is easily a possibility with the use of stem cells and revolutionises medicine in terms of curing diseases and sicknesses.
Scientists have been undertaking embryonic stem cell research for many years now and in numerous jurisdictions this research is seen as very unethical. This is because when stem cells are extracted from an embryo the embryo will be destroyed. This ultimately means that a life is being destroyed and this in parts of the world is seen as ethically wrong.
The recent development in this stem cell research is a way of producing stem cells without killing embryos. The scientists from the Universities of Edinburgh and Toronto have developed a procedure in which to reprogram entirely differentiated cells to become induced pluripotent (pluripotent - under the right conditions can transform into another type of specialised tissue cell) stem cells, which then behave like embryonic stem cells. This developmental technique is based on introducing transcription elements that are characteristic of stem cells into differentiated cells, such as skin cells.
In America there are large right wing groups who are pro-life enthusiasts who do not endorse embryonic stem cell research. Due to America’s democratic society this means that the study of stem cells in America is very limited and behind compared to the rest of the world. This was the case until recently when these scientists from the Edinburgh university team developed this method. Sir Ian Wilmut who led the team of scientists on the Dolly the Sheep campaign from Edinburgh University said what a significant advance this new development is. This now means that stem cell research in America can now take place without disturbing the pro life groups. In fact this new development has been welcomed and applauded from the pro-life religious groups.
The induced pluripotent stem cell aspect of this development is very promising due to the fact that cells can be made from a patient’s own skin and thus carry the same DNA and can be implemented on patients without causing infection and without the body’s immune system resisting the change.
There will still be some time before this breakthrough development can be carried out on patients because scientists are still trying to find reliable methods of transforming the stem cells into different types of tissues.
Reece, J.B. et al., 2011. Campbell Biology. 9th (Australian Version) ed. Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd
The Guardian, 2009, Scientists stem cell breakthrough ends ethical dilemma, accessed 17 March 2012, http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2009/mar/01/stem-cells-breakthrough
Scientific American, 2008, Embryos survive stem cell Harvest, accessed 17 March 2012, http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=embryos-survive-stem-cell-harvest