Stem cell research needs to be done

Aug. 2001, President Bush announced that the use of federally funded grants would be limited to embryonic stem cell lines already in existence. Research to develop cell lines after this announcement could only receive funding from private organizations or individual states. It is perhaps because of the lack of federal funding that, while countries like the United Kingdom and South Korea have been encouraging and advancing research, the U.S. has fallen behind. This must change. The medical possibilities involved with stem cells are infinite, from finding treatments for Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, to heart disease. Much information about these possibilities is unknown, however, and the U.S. must make efforts to further research in all stem cell related areas. The debate about embryonic stem cells originates from the question, “What qualifies as a life?” These stem cells are taken from the inner mass of embryos of four to five days in age. As the cells are unspecialized, they are stimulated to differentiate and become specialized. The specialized cells are then used to treat diseases. While previously the embryo had to be destroyed in order to partake in this process, recent studies have shown that an embryo that’s already “dead” can be used. This disqualifies the conception that embryonic stem cells involve any destruction of life. Research on embryonic stem cells only began in 1998 and more needs to be conducted. A different type of stem cell, adult stem cells, is used more commonly. These stem cells are undifferentiated. They divide in the body and then are used to replenish dying cells and restore damaged tissues. Adult stem cells treat diseases like Leukemia. Until recently, scientists thought that adult stem cells could only develop into certain types of cells. Studies have shown otherwise. If this is the case, adult stem cells could be more interchangeable with embryonic stem cells, eliminating much of the controversy. With the amount of possible uses for stem cells increasing, one thing is apparent. More research must be done on all the various types of stem cells. Adult stem cells are effectively being used in various treatments, but embryonic stem cell treatments are years away. These stem cells could potentially cure spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, along with other genetic and immune system disorders. More than 1000 million Americans are affected by these diseases. The U.S. must make efforts to encourage and advance stem cell research.