Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Implications Post

If this issue were not to be resolved and the debate of ethics and federal funding continue to be argued, embryonic stem cell research would continue to advance at the same rate as it is now: slower than what it could be with the proper support and funding. If people are willing to come to a consensus, research would be able to further advance at a more rapid pace.
Even though all of the controversies I have discussed throughout this blog will continue to be debated in the future, I believe, whether federally or privately funded, stem cell research will continue to make progress and eventually be able to develop successful treatments and possibly cures. Much of the funding issue will change drastically with the upcoming 2008 presidential election. For example, if Hilary Clinton becomes elected, she has already stated she does not agree with President Bush’s veto on a bill for federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, calling it a “ban on hope.” As with other democratic front runners, many believe in supporting embryonic stem cell research with federal funding. Therefore if a democrat is to be elected president in 2008, the chances of a bill being passed to allow federal funding for embryonic stem cell research is likely. If embryonic stem cell research is able to gain positive support along with ample amount of funding, I believe there will be progress in research, and eventually within the next decade, cures found. Bioethics expert, Christopher Thomas Scott, gives a hypothetical timeline of events he feels will progress with stem cell research, stating that by 2014 the first cell therapy will be used in clinics.
Researching both sides of this issue and seeing the different viewpoints, the controversies over embryonic stem cell research will never completely diminish. Both sides of this binary issue contain strong arguments and reliable facts which rely on the personal opinion of the individual to come to a decision. Since the ethical issue of using embryos for research is not going to completely resolve, the progress of using adult stem cells will advance at a more rapid rate than with using embryos.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Helpful Links:

Many websites I have found discuss the topic of funding the research of stem cells. One I have found shows the view that private funding is the best hope for funding stem cell research.
Others discuss the issue of the federal funding and the veto of President Bush of a bill that would have loosened the restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.
A good website I have found showing both sides of the binary issue of stem cell research that is unbiased and brings up several points on the issue:
Issues of religion have been raised on the ethical issue of embryonic stem cell research and whether an embryo is considered a human.
Several of the other websites I have found have been helpful in understanding what an embryonic stem cell is and how the research will be able to help in finding cures of several diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes. These websites show the distinction between a human adult stem cell and an embryonic stem cell, along with the pros and cons of the use of both.
An informative fact sheet:(1)

Thursday, October 25, 2007


As this blog is an English class project, through reading my classmates’ blogs, I have found some of them contain relevant information pertaining to my current issue of stem cell research. One fellow classmate is also examining the issue of stem cell research. Mike brings up some similar topics such as federal funding, embryonic vs. adult stem cell usage, and also a very interesting recent post about cloning.
This issue of stem cell research is very closely linked to the issue of abortion. Whether or not a person is in agreement with embryonic stem cell research is highly dependant upon their view of when an embryo is considered a human, the moment of conception or anywhere up to birth. This same question is relevant in the abortion debate: when life begins, whether abortion is ethical or is killing an innocent human being. Two fellow classmates’ blogs discuss the topic of abortion; both touching on the topics of when life begins and legalizing abortion, along with the pros and cons of the matter. Hotshot’s blog contains an interesting illustration on the debate of when life begins for a human from different viewpoints, which emphasizes the various opinions of the public. KGoods discusses the church’s viewpoint on the issue of abortion stating the church opposes it and believes abortion is a “grave evil.” This supports the viewpoint of the church and Pope on my issue where the church is also against and believes embryonic stem cell research “violates the dignity of human life.”

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A Theory...

Using embryonic stem cells for research is more beneficial to scientists in searching for cures of several human diseases, such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s, than using adult stem cells. Using embryonic stem cells, also referred to as “blank” cells can be manipulated into any other type of cell, where as adult cells can only be used for what they have already developed into. For example, an adult liver cell can only be used as a liver cell, whereas an embryonic stem cell can be developed into a heart, liver, nerve, kidney cell, etc, for countless research and to be able to replace a damaged cell in an ailing patient. Although the obtaining of embryonic stem cells is controversial and questions a person’s ethical beliefs, influenced by their political, religious, and moral values, using this type of cell will be more valuable and helpful to a scientist’s research. Once a decision of how embryonic cells can be legally obtained (whether through left over embryos from fertility treatments or from abortions), and in addition, federal funding is allowed to aid the process, researches will be able to focus on the real effort of searching for cures, using the more beneficial embryonic stem cells, rather than dealing with the ongoing political battle.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Food For Thought

Take a look at these logical fallacies I have found in researching the definition of a human. Some have based their decision on whether or not to support embryonic stem cell research depending on these assertions:

1) If a human being does not feel pain when he or she is destroyed, it is not immoral to destroy him or her.
2) A human embryo does not feel pain when he or she is destroyed.
3) Therefore, it is not immoral to destroy a human embryo.

1) If a human being has more cells, then that human being is more valuable.
2) An embryo has a very small number of cells.
3) Therefore, embryos are not very valuable.
These conclusions are in correct logical structure, however are not necessarily accurate.

Each individual defines a human being in his or her own way, basing the decision on personal, biased beliefs. As Greg Koukl writes in opposition of using human embryo’s for research: “By any objective, scientific standard, the embryo qualifies as a member of the human race. From the moment of conception the embryo is an individual. The zygote is distinct from mother, father, and other living things, having her own unique genetic fingerprint.” This raises the idea of when exactly an embryo technically becomes defined as a human. Koukl considers the genetic make-up as the defining factor of an embryo becoming a human which is developed at the time of contraception. Therefore, Koukl believes it is wrong to use an embryo for research, believing it is destroying human life. The decision of whether to support or oppose embryonic stem cell research is based primarily on a personal definition of a human being.

Friday, October 19, 2007

A Religious Debate

This startling graph from 2005 shows how much of an impact a person's religious views influence the decision of whether he or she agrees with stem cell research. Out of those who disagree with the research, over half hold their religious beliefs responsible for their decision. Many of the opponents believe that using embryos for scientific research is destroying human life. Catholics, for example, believe humans become “human” from the moment of contraception. As I have previously stated, the Pope believes using human embryo’s for stem cell research violates “the dignity of human life.”
As Lawton states in an interview, “The Bible talks about valuing life, but the Good Samaritan tries to go out of his way to alleviate suffering. What kind of determination do you make to determine which trumps which value?” Here, Lawton argues whether it is right to destroy human embryo’s, which can be considered “devaluing” life, or to use the embryo’s to search for cures for diseases which will help “alleviate suffering” for many humans. The interpretation of the Bible and a person’s beliefs are personal matters where Americans have the right to their own opinion. A person’s decision on whether to support embryonic stem cell research is mainly based on how he or she regards embryonic life.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A Political Battle

This political cartoon is a perfect representation of how the government influences the fate of stem cell research. The rear, flat tire on the ambulance represents the opposing view and veto of President Bush on a bill that would have loosened the restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. As the cartoon implies from the front tire, the US congress is in support of funding the research, yet the research is unable to continue on its “mission to save lives” because of lack of support from the rear wheel, aka the president. Stem cell research funding is dependant upon the support of the entire government; however some may argue that the government is making this issue into too much of a political debate rather than focusing on the scientific fight to cure diseases. The 2008 presidential candidates are making this issue a top discussion topic in their debates.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Big Debate: An analysis of the issue

Stem cell research has become a topic of debate among scientists, politicians and everyday citizens. Having been informed about stem cells and reading numerous articles and information about the matter; I am becoming more educated and aware of different aspects of the issue. Stem cell research has become an issue of ethics and rights, along with technological and scientific development.
The main purpose of stem cell research is to search for cures to such medical ailments and injuries as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, stroke, spinal cord injuries, and bone disease. The ethical issue under question is whether it is right to use embryonic stem cells for research. Although adult stem cells can be used, they propose disadvantages to the range of research and experiments able to be conducted. Adult stem cells are already set in their origin and cannot be manipulated into any sort of cell. For example, if an adult cell is a liver cell, it can not be manipulated into a heart cell. An embryonic stem cell, on the other hand, is able to be developed into any other cell made by the human body. It can be thought of as a “blank” cell. This will allow for possible growth of various cells and a wider range of research and data to be collected. Another advantage of using embryonic stem cells is their ability to divide indefinitely. This allows an unlimited genetically identical number of cells to be produced for medical use. These stem cells serve as a repair system, dividing when needing to replenish other cells. Embryonic stem cells can also be used to evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of new medicines.

One question leading to the ethical issue of embryonic research is the personal definition of a stem cell; whether one considers it as a human being life form or not. The previous use of aborted fetuses for stem cell research brought the topic of abortion to the issue. During the presidency of Bill Clinton, the ethics panel on the topic brought up the view that there is no reason to generate an embryo for purposes other than creating a child. Many opponents argue that the creation of human embryos solely for the purpose of medical research is unethical and may lead to cloning. They believe that reproductive cloning would undermine the fundamental concept of humanness. Also, cloning is thought to lead to genetic defects and become ineffective. Every clone is said to have subtle genetic abnormalities and have a low survival rate.

Supporters of stem cell research believe that a fertilized egg is not considered a human being, stating that during fertilization, an egg may be fertilized but fail to implant into the woman’s uterus. Therefore, it has the potential for human life, but can not be considered human until successfully implanted into the uterus. Although opponents of this research feel the research will lead to unethical human cloning, cloning is predicted to be a positive advantage. Creating these cells through cloning rather than the traditional egg and sperm method could, for example, allow a cell of the exact genetic make up to be able to be injected into a Parkinson’s disease patient , eliminating the risk of rejection.

Many counter arguments to stem cell research result from religious and anti-abortion groups stating that embryos are human beings and have the same rights as humans. From the religious view, even Pope Benedict has urged scientist not to use human embryos in stem cell research stating it is violates the dignity of human life.

Funding for this research has also become a major issue. Alfred Tubman donated $1.4 million to a Stem Cell Research group in Michigan to show his support of stem cell research. He has donated over $150 million over his lifetime to the University of Michigan and other research groups in order to aid in funding the research . Tubman is in full support of embryonic stem cell research and feels if embryonic stem cell research had been around he would not had to have seen people die of disease. Funding has developed into a more political battle, especially with the 2008 presidential debate ahead. President Bush recently vetoed, the first veto of his presidency, a bill that would have allowed for federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. He is against using embryonic stem cells for research and believes that using them is destroying human life. If the bill had been passed, it would have authorized federal funds to be used for the research of embryonic stem cells taken from the surplus embryos from in vitro fertilization clinics that would have been discarded otherwise. Most democrats do not agree with Bush's decision, including Hilary Clinton who states if she is elected she will sign an executive order rescinding Bush’s restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. She feels that Bush is conducting a “war on science” and she wants to end it. Clinton is proposing to add billions to fund scientific research in order for Americans to gain vital information in the medical world. It seems as if the issue of stem cell research is becoming more of a political battle among presidential candidates to gain voter support, rather than an issue of true scientific advancement.

A notable fact opponents raise is although stem cell research has been underway for several years now, it has yet to produce a single cure. However, a supporter of this research would note the fact that a great deal of information and data has been collected from the research which is able to point scientists in the right direction of finding cures. Also, there have been successful attempts with the use of animals which can lead to the conclusion human success will be next. The research process is continuous and if scientists are not allowed to continue with their research, there will be no hope of one day finding cures.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Federal Funding

The upcoming election is bringing up the issue of stem cell research and whether or not to allow federal funding for the process. Hilary Clinton, a 2008 democratic presidential candidate has included the issue of stem cell research to her topics of debate. Clinton is in favor of funding the research and proposes to double the budget of $28 billion over the next 10 years.http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/84818.php She is in favor of funding the stem cell research process as are many of the democratic presidential runners. Check this out for other democratic views: http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre2007060800
President Bush recently vetoed the bill for lifting restrictions on embryonic stem cell research. He believes that embryo’s which have been developed for in vitro fertilization should not be destroyed and believes this is not ethical. However, using unused embryonic stem cells is beneficial to research because embryonic stem cells can be manipulated into any type of cell for example an embryonic stem cell can be developed into a heart, brain, lung, nervous cell etc.. In contrast, an adult human stem cell can only be used for what it is intended to be, for example a heart cell can only be used as a heart cell, whereas an embryonic stem cell can be developed into a heart, brain, lung, nervous cell etc.
This is a powerful quote from a supporter of stem cell research in response to Bush’s veto: "Those families who wake up every morning to face another day with a deadly disease or a disability will not forget this decision by the president to stand in the way of sound science and medical research," said Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.). http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/19/AR2006071900524.html
I totally agree with Sen. Durbin on this issue. If there is a way to gain knowledge about an issue and potentially find cures to diseases people are suffering with everyday, we should take every step to ensure the advancement of this research. So now it is your turn…do you agree with Bush’s veto on a bill to lift restrictions on embryonic stem cell research???

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Chapel Hill professor wins Nobel Prize in Medicine for Stem Cell Research

Oliver Smithies, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was awarded the prestigious Nobel Prize in Medicine, along with Mario Capecchi of the University of Utah’s Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Sir Martin Evans of Cardiff University in Whales. The three worked together with embryonic stem cells of mice, investigating the behavior of genes. The experiments conducted showed, “stem cells could be genetically altered in the laboratory, then injected into mouse embryos to create offspring with changes to their DNA that would be passed on to future generations.”
http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nfh&AN=200710101026814111&site=ehost-live Smithies, Capecchi, and Hughes used this gene targeting method to see how the specific genes work and how to target them to manipulate their affects. The mice are used as models for comparison to humans with cancer and diseases such as Parkinson's and diabetes.
The research of these three scientists is significant for the continuance of stem cell research and the search for cures of human disease. If working with animal stem cells is becoming so successful, don’t you think it is time to put our effort in working with human stem cells in order to begin the direct search for human cures??
Check these articles for more info:


Tuesday, October 9, 2007

What's the big deal about Stem Cell Research...?

According to the American Heritage Science Dictionary, a stem cell is “an unspecialized cell found in fetuses, embryos, and some adult body tissues that has the potential to develop into specialized cells or divide into other stem cells.” Embryonic stem cells are able to develop into virtually any type of cell in the body, where as already developed human stem cells are only able to develop into specific cells. Research using either type of stem cell has become an extremely controversial topic.
Supporters of stem cell research believe that researching using stem cells is beneficial to finding cures and treatments for many popular diseases including Diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. For example if scientists were able to develop stem cells into cells such as cardiac cells, they might be able to replace damaged heart tissue in a heart attack patient. They may also be able to develop nerve cells in order to replace damaged brain cells in an Alzheimer’s patient.
Opponents of Stem Cell Research raise the question of ethics. For embryonic stem cell research, they believe it is unethical for the destruction of human embryos to take place for the advancement in medical research, stating it falls under the category of murder. Also, opponents state the argument that stem cell research will eventually lead into human cloning.
I am in support of stem cell research and for federally funding this research process. The more knowledge we can attain from scientific study, the higher the chance we will be able to develop positive advances in the medical world. Stem cell research is an important step to researching and finding possible cures to diseases that our population suffers from on a day to day basis. So what do you think…do you take the opposing side, looking at the ethical issue of using embryonic stem cells for medical research is considered to be murder and destructive, or do you support the research of stem cells in order to further our knowledge of medical treatments and to help save lives by finding possible cures for diseases? The question is up to you…for or against???