Stem Cell Research Continues to Spark Scientific Debate

As Christopher Reeves, better known as Superman, sat paralyzed and on a respirator in an interview in 1997, he would have to pause every three or four seconds to regain his breath. Reeves died of complications from a severe spinal cord injury on Oct. 11, 2004.

Ronald Reagan, the country’s 40th president, battled Alzheimer’s disease, a degenerative brain disease for the last 10 years of his life. During those years, Reagan was gradually robbed of his memory and died a slow agonizing death on June 5, 2004.

Scientists now believe that a relatively new and controversial form of research might offer the cures and treatments for some of humanities most agonizing diseases. Stem cell research uses embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells to possibly cure and treat diseases.

Embryonic stem cells, also known as pluripotent stem cells, are stem cells extracted from the part of the fetus that would have developed into either testicles or ovaries thus killing the fetus.

Adult stem cells, also known as multipotent stem cells, are stem cells generated in different organs and tissues of the fully developed human body. These cells can therefore be harvested from donors and isolated in the laboratory without the destruction of the fetus.

That is were all the fuss begins over embryonic stem cells as opposed to adult stem cells.

Proponents for embryonic stem cells feel that the potential rewards of embryonic research are enormous and should be continued.

Ed Burger, manager of website operations for the Stem Cell Research Foundation said that Americans can benefit from stem cell research, which would benefit diseases such as juvenile diabetes, spinal cord injury, Alzheimer’s disease.

Burger also said that since infertility clinics produce many embryos that are usually discarded, he and other scientists maintain that these embryos should be used for medical research.

One such feeling among scientists and researchers is that embryonic stem cells are more promising than adult stem cells.

Burger said that since embryonic stem cells are pluripotent they are highly flexible and can give rise to any cell type in the body, whereas umbilical cord and adult stem cells are more restrictive.

On the other hand, opponents of embryonic research oppose the research for several reasons.

Dana Cody, executive director of Life Legal Defense Foundation, said that the foundation does not support embryonic stem cell research because they believe life begins at conception and embryonic stem cell research people are taking human eggs and creating life to either destroy it or experiment with it.

Cody also said that embryonic stem cell research shows no promise and that’s why it is not privately funded. He continues that the best chance to cure and treat diseases lies with adult stem cell research.

Cody added that Life Legal Defense Foundation supports adult stem cell research because it is a proven research technique that has produced cures and therapies using adult umbilical cord stem cells, whereas, embryonic stem cell research has not shown any promise with cures or therapies.