Why Stem Cells are Controversial
To make a long story short, stem cells are
“undifferentiated” cells that are capable of
“differentiating” into a variety of specialized cells. To
put it in layman’s terms, stems cells are “blank” cells
that can turn into cells meant for specific purposes.
The significance of this fundamental property of stem
cells is that this means stem cells have the ability to
provide stem cell treatment for medical conditions that
would otherwise have no other treatment options, since
stem cells have the ability to regenerate the building blocks- the cells- of an area of the body
afflicted with a medical condition.
In order to understand the controversy surrounding stem cells, you need to know that there are
four different types of stem cells: amniotic stem cells, induced pluripotent stem cells, fetal stem
cells, and adult stem cells.
Amniotic stem cells are stem cells that exist in amniotic fluid. Amniotic fluid is the liquid that
fills up the amniotic sac that protects fetuses while they grow inside their mothers’ wombs.
Although there has been promising research showing the ability of amniotic stem cells to
differentiate into different, specialized cells- such as tissue cells, skin cells, and bone cells- it has
yet to be scientifically proven.
Induced pluripotent stem cells are stem cells that are created through artificial means- in other
words, by scientists in a laboratory- using real stem cells that can be found in adults. However,
the stem cells used to bring about these induced pluripotent stem cells are not the type that can be
turned into any cell- they have a limited range of what types of cells they can turn into. However,
by inducing them to become pluripotent, they can be made into stem cells capable of
differentiating into just about any specialized cell. However, the scientific technology that is
required to bring about this pluripotent state is still in its trial stages, rendering induced
pluripotent stem cells an inefficient method of stem cell treatment.
Adult stem cells are undifferentiated cells that can be found within adults, but the issue with
adult stem cells is that their range of differentiation is limited to the organ in which they
generate. In other words, adult stem cells can become any type of cell within an organ, but
cannot differentiate into cells found in other organs.
Embryonic stem cells are the stem cells that show the most promise when it comes to stem cell
therapy, but they are the most controversial because of the method with which to obtain them:
embryonic stem cells can only be derived from a human embryo, an embryo that will not be able
to survive stem cell extraction. This means that in order to study and potentially implement
embryonic stem cells, embryos have to be created for the sole purpose of destruction.
This is where the controversy lies: there are a significant number of people who consider the
creation of an embryo as the creation of a human being, and to destroy it is akin to murder. This
has hindered the advancement of stem cell research, but hopefully for proponents of stem cell
research, this controversy will become moot once medical technology allows other types of stem
cells, such as induced pluripotent stem cells to become just as efficient and useful as embryonic
For more information about stem cell therapy please click here.
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