Human stem cell research is one of the most dynamic areas in modern medicine. Stem cells are what are known as undifferentiated cells, meaning that they have yet to specialize into the various types of cells in the body. Typically, human stem cells are extracted from one of three sources: blood, bone marrow, or lipid cells (adipose tissue). The applications for stem cell research have the potential to fundamentally change the face of human injury and disease as well as how the current healthcare delivery system deals with patients.
In a medical context, human stem cells have the potential to increase human regenerative capacity far beyond the norm, especially in severely debilitating injuries where there is no natural way for the body to recover (e.g. spinal cord injuries). Stem cells also represent one of the best chances at addressing the severe shortages that organ transplant list recipients face every day. Even if the patients on the waiting list are able to obtain a willing donor, there is still a chance that the recipient’s body will reject the organ. Cloning human organs from stem cells would allow for a much lower rejection rate as well as deal a death blow to the international organ-trafficking trade. Organ transplant recipients could pursue their operations without worrying that the original source for their organ was coerced.
Unfortunately, religious lobbies have drastically increased their influence over the political process in recent decades and continuous funding for controversial scientific research is in short supply. Medical researchers now have to contend with deliberate obstruction by members of Congress who have conflated religious conviction with civic duty, particularly when it comes to sources for human stem cells. Rather than pursue stem cell research to its fullest extent and keep some of the best medical minds in the world working in the US, there have instead been several movements to ban stem cell research in varying degrees, anywhere from embryonic stem cell bans to total bans of any affiliated research.
Traditionally, the negative reaction toward stem cell research has focused around the issue of abortion. Namely, religious lobbies worry that stem cell research will encourage women to have abortions, thus encouraging practices counter to the teachings of many religious sects. Religious lobbyists’ concerns center on embryonic stem cell research, particularly with regard to abortion. While it is true that the umbilical cord of aborted fetuses is a rich source of human stem cells, these cells do not remain viable for long. The violent controversy over the matter has moved stem cell research in another direction. Many stem cell researchers are now pursuing the use of leftover embryos from couples who are undergoing fertility treatment. Whatever the source, in order for the healthcare delivery system to meet increasing demand while still improving patient quality of life, stem cell research must be permitted to continue.
Stem Cell research is an interesting component of medical research. If the stem cell research is successful in the medical field this will help in saving lives of people.
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