Embryonic Stem Cells BY lyd18 Definition of ESCs Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) are capable of propagating themselves indefinitely and can retain their ability to make all cell types within the organism. They form at the blastocyst stage of development. A blastocyst is a hollow ball of cells that is smaller than a pinhead. It has three structures- trophoblast, blastocoels and inner cell mass (Mandal, 2001). The embryonic stem cells lie within this ball of cells. Firstly, they are derived from embryos, specially obtained from eggs that have been fertilized in vitro (Mandal, 2001).
They are not fertilised within a woman’s body but in an in-vitro fertilization clinic or laboratory. They can live and grow in special solutions in test tubes or petri dishes in laboratories. Eventually, the excess embryos are frozen and later voluntarily donated for research purposes (Mayo, 2010). The second way in which scientists can get embryos is via therapeutic cloning. This technique merges a cell from the patient who needs the stem cell therapy, with a donor egg. The nucleus is removed from the egg and replaces the nucleus of the patient’s cell (Rippon, H.
J. & Bishop, A. E. , 2004). This egg is stimulated to divide either chemically or with electricity. The resulting embryo carries the patient’s genetic material. This minimises the risk that one’s body will reject the stem cells when they are implanted (Watson, 2012). uses of ESCS ESCs provided a simple model system to study the basic processes of early embryonic development and cellular differentiation. This improves our understanding about the development of fertilised egg and provides insight on how adult tissues are maintained and repaired (Cattaneo, 2012).
Not only that, since they re derived from human blastocysts, they can also be used for cell-based therapies in which virtually any tissue or cell could be produced to order’ in the laboratory (Rippon, H. J. & Bishop, A. E. , 2004). Because of this versatility, embryonic stem cells have the highest potential for use to regenerate or repair diseased tissue and organs in people. This shows a radical new approach to the treatment of many diseases- Alzheimer’s diseases, spinal cord injury, stroke, burns, etc- where organ damage or dysfunction exceeds the body’s capability for natural repair (Amit, 2000).
Next, cientists know that turning genes on and off is central to the process of identifying how the undifferentiated stem cells become differentiated and form the tissues and organs (Rippon, H. J. & Bishop, A. E. , 2004). With greater understanding of the genetic and molecular controls of these processes, it yields information about how such diseases arise and suggest new strategies for therapy. A number of diseases, such as cancer or birth defects, are the result of problems in the process of differentiation from stem cells to more specialized cells (Cattaneo, 2012).
Also, it reveals how our ells react to, or could be treated with potential new drugs. This allows drug testing in a wider range of cell types, minimises any negative consequences one might need to face or studies cells that cannot easily be obtained, e. g brain cells (Cattaneo, 2012). Current knowledge of the signals controlling differentiation falls short of being able to mimic these conditions precisely to generate pure populations of differentiated cells for each drug being tested (Winslow, 2001). Human ESCs were eventually research and the clinic.
Controversial Issue on ESCs ESCs are derived from the foetus-research into the therapeutic properties of stem ells and had triggered massive debate among politicians, religious groups, scientists and the public. It poses a moral dilemma and forces people two choose between two morale principles- the duty to alleviate suffering or to respect the value of human life (Carpenter, 2000). However, it is impossible to respect both moral principles. In order to obtain ESCs, the early embryo has to be destroyed. But, the research could also lead to discovery of new medical treatments that would alleviate people’s suffering.
This is the dilemma- which moral principle should have the upper hand in this situation? I believe the answer hinges on one central question: When does life begin? Personally, I feel that the criteria for ‘personhood’ are notoriously unclear. Different people have different perception of when life begins and that is what makes ESC controversial. Opponents who are pro-life compare the destruction of an embryo to abortion. They believe the process of extracting the cells is considered to have killed that person as the embryo has the potential to fully develop into a human being (Mummery, 2003).
To them, a human embryo is a human being in the embryonic stage, Just as a child is a human being in the childhood stage. Therefore, it is immoral and unethical to destroy one life to save another. They feel that the human life is de- valued by this act and have condemned ESC research and all its application. Some even cite the fact that adult stem cells are the ones currently being used in therapies and that there is no need to venture into ESC (Murnaghan, 2013). Others disagree. To them, the human personhood starts much later.
Since the early embryo has not been implanted into the uterus and does not have the properties we associate with human beings, one should not be as bothered. Besides, there is a low probability that the mbryos used will develop into a full-term successful birth (Annas, 1999). In fact, more than half of all fertilised eggs are also lost due to natural causes. Hence, we should not worry about ESCs. Reflection on ESCs Although I am a pro-life advocator, I reckon that the ethical concerns regarding ESC usage are not sufficient to warrant discontinuation.
ESC is a promising therapy which might reduce societal costs of many diseases and conditions. This would benefit patients who are already persons. We should not disregard embryos but should also not disregard those patients living. Since we have a way to minimise their sufferings, we should use it. Perhaps, we could learn to look at it in a way that ESC is done to advance our human health rather than discarding a life. The embryos are the leftover from in-vitro fertilization, hence either way, they will be destroyed.
So I believe, instead of wasting it, we could put them to greater use by benefitting the human kind. Definitely, I believe that life should be valued. Since an embryo has the potential to have life, people should not discard it lightly. However, this one embryo might change the entire history of the medical aspects of human kind. In fact, researchers have been finding alternatives to avoid foetal destruction like by deriving ESCs without the foetus or obtaining ESCs without actually creating foetus (Murnaghan, 2013).
Personally, these are good alternatives that would settle all the controversial issues. However, more research has to be done as they are still far from perfect. Meanwhile, I believe ESCs should be used. (1083 words) Amit M, Carpenter MK, Inokuma MS, Chiu C-P, Harris CP, Waknitz MA, Itskovitz-Eldor J, Thomson JA (2000) Clonally derived human embryonic stem cell lines maintain luripotency and proliferative potential for prolonged periods of culture. Dev. Biol. 227, 271. Annas G], Caplan A, Elias S (1999) Stem cell politics, ethics and medical progress.
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