Stem Cell Therapy: Why is it Controversial? There are currently three ways to harvest stem cells – bone marrow, blood and embryos. The preferred method is from using the blood, as it is thought to be safer and can be done with no anaesthesia. Harvesting stem cells from bone marrow is the preferred source when the blood cannot provide sufficient cells. Harvesting embryonic stem cells is really where the controversy with stem cell therapy lies. Removing stem cells from blood can be accomplished by processing the blood of either the patient or an outside donor. The procedure consists of placing an IV in each arm – through one, IV blood is drawn from the body, then processed by a machine which extracts the stem cells. The blood is then returned to the body through the second IV. Harvesting stem cells from blood can be done time after time until there are sufficient stem cells to begin the anti aging therapy that they are being harvested for. There may be discomfort in the bones as the marrow works overtime to generate more blood and white blood cells. Once enough stem cells have been harvested, the pain quickly subsides. Usually, before harvesting stem cells from the blood, the patient gets a drug that increases the production of white blood cells in his bone marrow. Although blood is the preferred source for stem cells, there are very few of them in the blood. The drug that is given stimulates a massive overproduction of white blood cells that spill over from the marrow into the blood where they are harvested. Stem cell treatment for any purpose requires millions of stem cells to work correctly. Timing the harvest is constantly monitored to determine exactly when to start the process as the drug causes such a rapid production of white blood cells that they age and begin to die very quickly. Harvesting stem cells from a human embryo causes the death of the embryo – hence, the moral dilemma. Many people consider this method of stem cell extraction tantamount to murder. Research continues and it is looking more and more promising that a stem cell can be extracted from the embryo and the remaining cells can be reintroduced into the womb, thereby preserving the embryo. Regardless of how the stem cells are harvested, they show tremendous promise in treating disease as far removed from one another as cancer and aging. Along with alternative therapy, such as IV vitamin therapy, researchers continue to work toward enhancing, and perhaps extending, life.
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