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Stem Cell Controversy

Submitted by Stella Morgan on November 24, 2009

Controversial Health Issues About Stem Cells You must have come across the controversial health issue about stem cells in newspapers, magazines and the news. It has become one of the most heated health debate topics of our times along with controversial nutritional issues, like genetically modified foods. But what are stem cells and why do they generate such heated debates? As we all know, cells are the most fundamental units of life. They play an important role in all bodily functions, from absorbing nutrients to undertaking day to day activities. Stem cells are classified as simple, starter cells.

The attachment of the word simple, however, refers only to the fact that the cells are not yet specialized. These cells, in fact, have the potential to develop into a varied range of highly specialized cells through cell division. Stem cells have become a controversial health topic mainly because of their potential to repair damaged tissues in the body.

By harvesting stem cells, scientists claim they can help reverse many life threatening conditions like cancer, multiple sclerosis, Parkinsonís, etc. Opponents of stem cells, however, refer to this as an unethical, immoral and highly dangerous practice. Before we get into this health debate topic, it is important to understand the basics of stem cell research. Stem cells are divided into embryonic stem cells (at the eye of the storm) and adult stem cells.

Adult stem cells are rare, undifferentiated cells that can multiply and help regenerate dying tissues and cells in the body. These cells are found and derived from adult organs and tissue samples. Adult stem cells have been successfully used during complex procedures like bone marrow transplants, Embryonic stem cells are sourced from left over four day old embryos that are soon to be discarded in vitro clinics.

This is done only after donor consent; the cells are then isolated and cultivated in laboratories. Scientists are very excited about the embryonic stem cell research as it promises some very effective treatment courses for life threatening illnesses and injuries, which as of today have no cure. If researchers are to believed, this could dramatically change and improve the figures on health fact sheets across the world. The opponents of stem cell research on the other hand compare the destruction of embryos to the practice of abortion. They believe the embryos constitute future life. Destroying it amounts to murder. They call the research immoral and unethical as it basically involved giving up one potential life form to save another. They also question the blurring lines between science and playing God. While scientists counter the accusations by stating that the embryos arenít sourced from the womb, but from labs. They also point out that if these stem cells werenít used for research, the embryos will only be discarded. They also point out to the potential path breaking treatments they can create. Either way, the debate rages on.
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