Stem Cell Research


According to the American Medical Association, stem cells are biological cells found in multi-cellular organisms that are undeveloped and undifferentiated cells that have the probability of differentiating into specialized cells. Stem cell research is thus the study of the development of stem cells and their unique properties to establish methods of treating medical conditions. The goal of this paper therefore is to give a basic overview of stem cell research, understand its importance to the medical field, highlight its demerits and finally explore the controversies surrounding stem cell research.

To accomplish this goal, it is important to begin by noting that there are basically two forms of stem cells. Embryonic stem cells result from the mitosis of newly fertilized eggs whereas adult stem cells dwell in tissues that are already developed. These two types of stem cells are important in medicine due to their distinguishing characteristics. The National Institutes of Health explains that the ability of stem cells to renew themselves through cell division is important in the replacement of cells damaged through wear and tear for example in the bone marrow or in the brain. Stem cells also have the potential of being stimulated to become organ specific cells especially in the gut. As a result of these unique properties, stem cells and their research are important in understanding early human development, evaluating birth defects and in cell therapies as the replacement of diseased tissues.

Despite these advantages stem cell research has a number of theoretical/scientific demerits. Stem cell research is risky because as a permanent procedure the long effects of cell therapy are left to chance. A number of studies have also shown that stem cells are associated with the development of tumors although proponents of stem cell research claim these tumors are benign. These demerits have fueled ethical controversies with opponents arguing that the creation of stem cells destroys the human embryo violating the sanctity of life.

Summarily it has been established that stem cell research is the study of the development of stem cells for medical purposes. Stem cells research is important in understanding early human development, evaluating birth defects and in cell therapies as the replacement of diseased tissues. It is however controversial due to the destruction of the human embryo, the development of tumors and the uncertainty involved.