Monday, December 14, 2009

Substitute to Stem Cell research

            Stem cells are characterized by the ability to renew themselves through mitotic cell division and differentiating into a diverse range of specialized cell types. Stem cells are found in most multi-cellular organisms. With this in mind, scientists over the last couple of years have made progress toward creating cells that would end the controversial studies of human stem cells. The ability to consistently replicate human stem cells would enable scientists to avoid the religious and ethical concerns about destroying human stem cells to further scientific studies and cures.

            Hundreds of scientists are working on some form of research about the replicas, known as induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. The University of Nebraska Medical Center researcher, Dr. Angie Rizzino, was among 22 scientists selected to receive federal funds from the recently passed stimulus package to resume his work. Researchers are using mouse, rat, and human cells to find which ones are most effective to manipulate into embryonic stem cells. Scientists predict that they are only a few years from understanding induced pluripotent stem cells well enough so that they could successfully replace embryonic stem cells consistently, and they predict they're only 10 years away from applying the cells to aid in human treatments.

            Rizzino believes that the understanding of the cells needs to deepen to understand how to efficiently and safely reproduce the cells. Scientists still don't know how different the induced cells are from embryonic cells. Rizzino said that the time may come where this new cell will replace human cells, but for now, he said, research should continue to further improve our technology and understanding of cells and disease start.

            There are many pros and cons involving stem cell research. Obviously the biggest impact would be that we would, theoretically, help treat a range of medical problems including Parkinson's Disease, Alzheimer's Disease, Heart Diseases, Stroke, Diabetes (Type 1), birth defects, spinal cord injuries, replace or repair damaged organs, and maybe even get a copy of your own heart in a heart transplant in the future. Opponents of research often use moral reasons to back them up saying "We should not mess with human life" and "Humans should not be trying to play God." So also believe that this will lead to cloning of human life and previous attempts have been futile. I personally do not believe in stem cell research but I think that if scientists would be able to make this substitute it would be a huge leap for science as well as for the better of all of mankind for future generations.

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