What is the Controversy over Stem Cell Research

Stem cells are the undifferentiated cells found in our body which can duplicate it as well as differentiate into cells of different types and of specialized function. The stem cells are of two types- embryonic stem cells and the adult stem cells or somatic stem cells. Embryonic stem cells are obtained from the embryos whereas adult stem cells are found in most of the organs of the body helping in the repair and regeneration of damaged tissue.

What is stem cell research?

Since stem cell have the capability of differentiating into different cell types and of specialized function, it is being exploited for the treatment of different incurable diseases like physical trauma, degenerative diseases and well as some genetic diseases. The research and studies are being conducted to expand the possibilities treating many other diseases. The embryonic stem cells are pleuripotent and their ability to differentiate into different cell type whereas; adult stem cells can only differentiate into different cell types of the tissue in which they are found. Some studies have suggested that even adult stem cell can retain their plasticity but more data is needed in this regard. Embryonic stem cells are however is required in the treatment of nervous system related therapies as adult stem cells are incapable of differentiating into neural cells. One drawback of embryonic stem cell is that it has chances of graft rejection as they may be considered foreign to the body as against the adult stem cells which are derived from persons own organs.

What is the controversy over stem cell research?

The controversy over stem cell research is the use, destruction and formation of human embryos for research purpose. The research involving the use of embryonic stem cell requires the stem cells to be isolated from the embryos. The controversy revolves around the embryonic stem cells but not against the use of adult stem cells and cord blood and cord tissue, the use of which is not considered unethical as it does not involve the destruction of live embryos.

The federal government in U.S banned the liquidating of funds for the research involving embryonic stem cells. However, the advocates of embryonic stem cell research say that the use of embryos produced in the infertility clinics during attempted fertilization can be used which otherwise be a waste. Also since these are not live embryos fertilized in woman’s womb it should not be unethical to be used for research purpose. Some of them are of the view that if use of embryos for harvesting of embryonic stem cells is allowed may increase the abortion rate for some rewards for it.