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Stem Cell Research

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Introduction

Stem cells have the potential to develop into any of the different cell types in the body. As the organism develops the stem cells become specialised to carry out a particular function. Research on stem cells is advancing and scientists have begun to recognise the potential of stem cells in medical treatment, this is called regenerative or reparative medicine. This is a fast moving area of biology which has many ethical and controversial issues. Generally there are 2 types of stem cells, embryonic and adult stem cells. Embryonic cells are totipotent in their early stages. When the embryo would implant in its mothers uterus - the blastocyst stage, the inner cells are pluripotent and these cells eventually form most of the cells of the baby but not all of them. The blastocyst includes three structures: the trophoblast, which is the layer of cells that surrounds the blastocyst; the blastocoel, which is the hollow cavity inside the blastocyst; and the inner cell mass, which is a group of approximately 30 cells at one end of the blastocoel. ...read more.

Middle

Therapeutic cloning is an experimental technique that produces healthy tissue; the aim is to treat diseases caused by faulty cells e.g. type 1 diabetes or Alzheimer's. First they produce healthy cloned cells by removing the nucleus from their normal body cells and putting it into a human ovum that has had its own nucleus removed. Next they give a mild electric shock so the new cell starts to develop this produces a collection of new embryonic cells with the same genetic information as the person the normal body cell has come from. Stem cells will be harvested from the embryo which then gets destroyed. Large numbers of cells are needed for stem cell replacement therapies. An advantage of using stem cells from an adult is that the patient's own cells could be grown in culture and then reintroduced. The use of the patient's own adult stem cells would mean that the cells would not be rejected by the immune system and would continue to grow naturally. ...read more.

Conclusion

The House of Lords Committee on Stem Cell Research considered this issue, deciding that it was preferable to use 'spare' IVF embryos for research (which would otherwise be destroyed) than to create embryos (which would have no prospect of being implanted) specifically for research. It took the view that "embryos should not be created specifically for research purposes unless there is a demonstrable and exceptional need which cannot be met by the use of surplus embryos". I think that in the future stem cells will be used to cure diseases such as cancer, leukaemia and others that have not yet had a cure found. Although there are many issues surrounding stem cell research I think it's a good thing, because by the continuation of research into the uses of stem cells will allow progression in helping to find new discoveries for medicines and general scientific research. I don't agree with destroying the embryos because I believe everything has the right to a life and by destroying the embryo it is taking that chance of a life away. ...read more.

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