Stem Cell Research


Background:

Stem cells are cells with the potential to develop into many different types of cells in the body. They serve as a repair system for the body. There are two main types of stem cells: embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells.
"Doctors and scientists are excited about stem cells because they have potential in many different areas of health and medical research. Studying stem cells may help explain how serious conditions such as birth defects and cancer come about. Stem cells may one day be used to make cells and tissues for therapy of many diseases, including Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, spinal cord injury, heart disease, diabetes and arthritis."
National Institutes of Health
external image stem-cell-diagram-nih.jpg


Video:

What is a Stem Cell?


The process of collecting cells from a fetus is called preimplantation genetic diagnosis. Preimplantation genetic diagnosis, PGD, is a diagnosis test for human embryos. This test is conducted so that birth defects such as Down Syndrome can be detected. PGD can also detect what sex the baby is. PGD can be performed on cells from different developmental stages, and the procedures vary. The biopsy can be performed on almost all stages of the baby, but the first three stages have been most successful. The most successful biopsy is when the baby is in the blastocyst-stage. A blastocyst is a highly differentiated, highly developed embryo that has grown to the point where it is ready to attach to the uterine wall. The first part of blastocyst-stage biopsy is performed by making piercing in the zona pellucida. The zona pellucide is the strong membrane that forms around an egg as it develops in the ovary. The membrane remains in place during the egg's travels through a tube that transports the egg from the ovary to the uterus. Then, about five cells are taken from the embryo using a glass needle or laser energy. Doing this, the embryo is left intact including its inner cell mass. After diagnosis, cells have no other function. The only other resourceful thing is to freeze them and use them later on for stem cell research.

Once we have acquired a stem cell it can be used in many ways. Scientists believe that stem cells can be used to replace damaged tissues and treat diseases, such as Parkinson disease and diabetes. Embryonic stem cells can be grown in the lab from blastocyst, a hollow ball of cells in a human embryo, and made to differentiate into nerve, liver, muscle, blood, and other cells. Scientists hope to control the differentiation of the stem cells to replace cells in diseased or damaged organs in human beings. This will help scientists understand how human tissues and organs develop. It may also lead to new treatments for many diseases, such as cancer. Embryonic stem cells can also be used to test the effects of new drugs without harming animals or people.
A potential application of stem cells is making cells and tissues for medical therapies. Stem cell therapy is the process of injecting stem cells into a person or organism to repair specific tissues or to grow organs. The goal of stem cell therapy is to repair a damaged tissue that can’t heal itself. This might be accomplished by transplanting stem cells into the damaged area and directing them to grow new, healthy tissue. It may also be possible to coax stem cells already in the body to work overtime and produce new tissue.


There are many diseases that can be cured from stem cells. The diseases that can be cured by stem cells are cancer in the blood (leukemia and lymphoma), and mostly any other disease that has to do with the replacement of organs or neurons. One of the biggest questions is, “how can stem cells cure cancer?” This is a very tricky and complicated topic. Stem cells do not completely cure cancer. Generally the stem cells are put in where someone has a tumor to get rid of it. The cancer cells get destroyed, causing the stem cells get turned into cancer cells (to prevent cancer). This is because stem cells can turn into almost any type of cell. The downside to stem cells is that the they can’t stay there forever. They can only stay for a few months so the cancer cells still have a chance of coming back
.”

Researchers are close to curing diseases that have been thought to be impossible to cure. They are considering stem cell research as a possible cure for fatal diseases. Stem cell research is the process of taking unused stem cells from aborted fetuses to cure defective blood cells. The fetuses have the stem cells that can create new blood cells for sick patients. Stem cells could possibly cure many diseases that trouble the red blood cells including Multiple Sclerosis, Alzheimer’s Disease, cancers of the blood, and Parkinson’s Disease. Parkinson’s Disease has the most potential for being cured by stem cells. 50,000 people from the United States contract Parkinson’s Disease annually. Parkinson’s causes tremors, dementia, and muscular degeneration. Alzheimer’s is another disease that could possibly be cured by stem cells. Alzheimer’s Disease is a brain disorder. The cells in the brain become corrupted, which causes people with Alzheimer’s to have serious memory loss, confusion, and dementia. Another disease that couldpossibly be cured by stem cells are blood cancers, such as Lymphoma and Leukemia. Leukemia and Lymphoma affect the blood and the bone marrow of the body. Ironically, stem cells can give off cancerous cells, which is a con of stem cell. Another controversial con of stem cells is the use of aborted fetuses. Many people are pro-life, so they believe that using aborted fetuses is horrible. One of the many pros of stem cells is that it could possibly cure brutal diseases. There is still just on going research. Dan Kaufer, a stem cell researcher at the University of Wisconsin medical school says, “I don’t want to give false hope to anybody that we’re able to treat cancers or blood disorders now, I think it’s something that we hope will come in the future, but there are a lot of hurdles to overcome in the meantime.”

In terms of the government's role, all researched must be approved by governmental officials. On August 9, 2001 George Bush declared that funds would be awarded for research using embryonic stem cells if it met the following criteria:
1. The destruction of the embryo was initiated prior to 9:00 P.M. EDT on August 9, 2001
2. Stem cells must come from embryo that was formed for reproductive purposes and not need
3. Necessary concent for donation and no financial inducements in donation
The National Institute of Health follows these above guidlines and funds research for stem cell exploration. Fourteen different labratories in the United States, India, Isreal, Singapore, Sweden, and South Korea have obtained stem cells from 71 different individuals. The NIH is ensuring the proper handling and research on these cells. Recently, however, there have been discoveries on stem cells coming from other parts of the body, like one's skin or bone marrow.

The website below talks about the discovery of generating stem cells through induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS).
Stem Cell Research Advance

The website below talks about mesenchymal stem cells, which are found in bone marrow (used in rat trials).
Lab Rat trials

Contriversy

Most commentators agree that the use of stem cells derived from adult human beings are ethically acceptable (assuming other ethical parameters are met). The major point of disagreement involves the use of stem cells derived from early human embryos and aborted fetuses.


Pro:
They offer hope for medical advancement because of their ability to grow into almost any kind of cell.

They have potential to cure many incurable diseases
Con:
The rats in the labs that recieved Stem Cells began to contract a chromosomal anomaly that creats cancer cells.
The process requires killing living fetuses
Stem cell research in the current Presidential race:
For years, scientists have been searching for advancements that will improve the life of those with health problems. Finally, a promising idea has come up: stem cell research. Yet the controversy behind it is debatable for both John McCain and Barack Obama.

Stem cells are certain cells that are unspecialized, meaning they can work as cells in any part of the body. Biologists today have discovered stem cells as a way to replace dead or damaged cells with new stem cells that can help the healing processes for those with diseases. However, the controversy is where the stem cells come from. Recently, a new form of stem cells have been found- skin stem cells, but the main source for research currently is embryonic stem cells coming from human embryos. This presents a difficult situation for people who are pro-life.

John McCain claims to support President Bush’s Compromise for ESCR (embryonic stem cell research), which federally funds research for existing stem- cell lines. However, the compromise does not include embryos created for the purpose of stem cell research. John McCain still stands by this compromise today.
At a Republican debate on May 3, 2007, John McCain stated:
“I believe that we need to fund this. This is a tough issue for those of us in the pro-life community. I would remind you that these stem cells are either going to be discarded or perpetually frozen. We need to do what we can to relieve human suffering. It's a tough issue. I support federal funding.”

In his campaign today, John McCain is leaning towards research with skin stem cells rather than embryonic stem cells. By doing so, he avoids the conflict of his supporters with the hope that research using skin stem cells can become just as successful if not more successful than that of embryonic stem cells. This approach seems to be mostly successful in reaching out towards those who are pro-life and those who are pro-choice.

A weakness on McCain’s part is the opinion of his assertive running mate, Sarah Palin. While McCain is partially favorable towards embryonic stem cell research to a certain point, Palin is outspokenly against any form of embryonic stem cell research.
Barack Obama also supports the Stem Cell Research Enhancement act, and has been an original supporter since it was introduced and giving to the president in the 109th congress. Barack fells that it is very important to become more advanced in the study of stem cells. Since stem cells can provide a cure for life threatening or deadly diseases. Such as Alzheimer’s, that causes memory lost and bad judgment. Over 100,000 Americans will be diagnosed with Alzheimer each year. One million adults have diabetes. And spinal cord injuries as a result of wars and accidents are an example of life changing situations. With further studies in stem cells a cure could be found.
People who have leukemia that have a bone marrow transplant have a longer life. Bone marrow transplants are a type of stem cell called adult stem cells. Barrack supports this type of stem cell use that has been used for decades. Another advancement in stem cells that has been a huge benefit in saving lives is stem cell use from a patient’s own cord blood. But that most controversial type of stem cell comes from embryos. Obama supports the use of embryonic stem cell use to an extent.

On Wednesday April 11, 2007 Barack Obama said, “
Embryonic stem cells can be obtained from a number of sources, including in vitro fertilization. At this very moment, there are over 400,000 embryos being stored in over 400 facilities throughout the United States. The majority of these are reserved for infertile couples. However, many of these embryos will go unused, destined for permanent storage in a freezer or disposal. We should expand and accelerate research using these embryos, just as we should continue to explore the viability of adult stem cell use, cord blood use, and amniotic fluid use. “

If these embryos are not being used to create humans then Obama thinks that we should use them to explore new cures for diseases and save the lives of many.

While both candidates’ viewpoints on the issue of stem cell research may be different, we can all agree that we are together in the fight against disease.

Videos:


CNN broadcast McCain-Palin Stem Cell Research policy:

Interview with Palin about Stem Cell Research:


McCain-Palin advertisement:

Barack Obama on Stem Cell Research:

Barack Obama speech on Stem Cell Reasearch (skip to minute 2:30):



Firpo, Meri T. "Stem cell." World Book Advanced. 2008. [Place of access.] 22 Oct. 2008 <http://www.worldbookonline.com/advanced/article?id=ar726778>.

Stem Cell Glossary. (2007). Stem Cell Harvesting [Web Site]. Retrieved October 21, 2008, from http://www.stemcellharvesting.co.uk/‌stem-cell-glossary.php

Stem Cells and Diseases. (2007). Stem Cell Information [Web Site]. Retrieved October 16, 2008, from National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Web site: http://stemcells.nih.gov/‌info/‌health.asp

What is the goal of stem cell research. (2008). Learn.Genetics [Web Site]. Retrieved October 16, 2008, from The University of Utah Web site: http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/‌content/‌tech/‌stemcells/‌scresearch/

http://stemcells.nih.gov/info/health.asp

Lovgren, Stefan Lovgren. "Stem Cells Can Be Collected Without Destroying Embryos, Scientists Show."

National Geographic. 28 Aug. 2006. 17 Oct. 2008 <http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/08/060823-stem-cells_2.html>.

"What is a fetus?" Stem Cells from NIV Gov. 17 Oct. 2008 <http://www.stemcells.nih.gov/info/cellmovie.htm>.

"What is an ebryonic stem cell?" ISSCR. 17 Oct. 2008 <http://www.isscr.org/public/faq.htm#4>.

http://www.stemcell.umn.edu/stemcell/stemcell101/dzfacts/parkinsonsdisease.html (the diseases that could be cured)

http://archives.cnn.com/2001/HEALTH/09/03/stem.cells/index.html
(Process of stem cell)

http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_what_is_alzheimers.asp#brain
(Alzheimer’s)

http://parkinsons-disease.emedtv.com/parkinson's-disease/parkinson's-disease-statistics.html