Hopeful Cures From Stem Cell Research  
by: Michael J. Burger

     Can stem cells be the answer to many of the uncontrollable diseases facing humanity? Ask yourself, if you were a person living with an uncontrollable disease, would the promise derived from stem cell research be important to you? Absolutely! 

Stem cells are uniquely regenerative cells that have the ability to replace failing cells, and becoming cells with specific functions, properties, or they can simply remain stem cells.  With stem cell research, we can, potentially, save an unimaginable number of lives.  Think of the number of children born with disabling diseases who do not have the opportunity, as many of us do, to live a healthy life, as a result of stem cell science..

As stated by the Stem Cell Research Foundation (Oct. 2005), through decades of research on stem cells, from laboratories around the world, stem cells have been proven to possess a very high potential for overcoming, and replacing bad cells that are found in the uncontrollable diseases facing us today, and in the future. Unfortunately in the beginning of the Embryonic Stem Cell research (ESC), the process in which the stem cells were extracted from the embryo, resulted in the destruction of the embryo created enormous controversy.

The controversy of ESC research is accompanied by several different viewpoints. The subject of ESC research does not come without both supported and opposed positions in all churches, governmental, and public opinions polls. Each of these groups has split opinions on the ethical, moral, and legal stand points. Some even have the worries of this research leading to full human cloning. Yet, with each of these groups, the main argument is focused on when is the embryo considered as a human life morally and legally.

Today, there are as many different opinions as to when an embryo is considered to be a living being as there are religions. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH) (Dec. 2005), until 1869 the Roman Catholic Church believed life began 40 days after conception. Since then, the Catholic Church has modified its view, claiming that it does not know for certain when life actually begins. Thus, the Catholic Church of today believes it must protect human life at the earliest possible stage.

Testimony, written by Rabbis Elliot Dorff and Moshe Dovid Tendler to the National Bioethics Advisory Commission explained that, “In Jewish law and tradition the embryo has no moral status, until 40 days after implantation and that eggs and sperm mixed together in a petri dish have no legal status, because they are not even part of a human being unless implanted in a woman’s womb.”

A survey taken by the Gallup Poll conducted on July 10, 2001 posted by Newsbatch.com shows the results of this survey. (see figure 1) This survey was taken after a full explanation of the issue on stem cell research funding.

Figure: 1

     

 

The government's standpoint on the issue of ESC research is as divided as the church's. As published by Newsbatch.com (Nov.2005), the 2004 Democratic platform supports the funding for the new technology for medical research purposes. In the Republican Party they are divided on this issue of funding ESC research as much as they are on the abortion rights issue. On August 9, 2001 President Bush stated, “The Administration will support continued funding for research on stem cell lines which have already been extracted,” at a nationally televised speech. A Gallup poll survey was conducted from August 10th to the 12th,about the President’s decision to continue funding for ESC. (See figure 2).

Figure: 2

The Medical Director of Advance Cell Technology, Inc. (ACT), Lanza, R. (Oct. 2005) has stated, “The most basic objection to ESC research is that the fact that embryo’s are deprived of any further potential to develop into a complete human being.” Laboratories all around the world have been working relentlessly looking for other possible processes to extract these unique stem cells with out destruction to the embryo. Due to the laboratories dedication they are discovering many other processes that can calm the controversy of ESC research.

Mariusz Ratajczak from the University of Louisville, James Graham Brown Cancer Center has discovered Adult stem cells extracted from an adult bone marrow are showing that these adult bone marrow cells can mimic the ESC’s ability to regenerate and develop into other types of cells. Ratajczak’s team has grown, what they refer to as “very small embryonic-like” (VSEL) stem cells in the laboratory. The team has so far been able to stimulate the VSEL into heart, nerve, and pancreas cells. The team feels that, “If more scientists were to duplicate this process on a bigger scale would eliminate the rejection problems associated with using stem cells from outside donors,” as stated in the “What’s New” article (Jan. 2006) of the Stem Cell Research Foundation.

In other parts of the world, such as South Korea, they are performing stem cell therapy insertion surgeries on cancer patients. Recently, in a article published by journalist Fower, K. (Nov. 2005) from WJLA ABC7, a woman from here in America has traveled to S. Korea to have this surgical procedure performed on her, in hopes to cure her of terminal cancer she currently and courageously fighting. She is at this time reported to be recovering and so far in good shape.

In a laboratory at Utah Southwestern Medical Center, as published by the Stem Cell Research Foundation (Nov. 2005) are learning that stem cells from the male sperm can also mimic the ESC with the capability to grow into many other types of cells of the human body. As each month goes by, many new discoveries are being found. With this being said, we can clearly see that the research holds a lot of promise in calming the controversy and ridding the world of these incurable diseases that are taking the lives of our children and loved ones.

The research of stem cells are also showing great potential for curing more than just the incurable diseases we face. Reported by CNN Headline News television (Jan. 2006) a research lab in Hong Kong, China are discovering that hearing lost is due to absent stem cells in our inner ears. With the research of stem cell insertion, it is very possible a cure for the deaf can be found. With great hope, this team of scientists are testing this possibility on mice in the laboratory. Dr. Cheng of the Hong Kong Stem Cell Research Center has stated that, “ The human ears and the ears of a mouse have the same gene and developmental process that allows us to hear.” Dr. Cheng has been testing the stem cell insertion procedure on deaf mice and has successfully given the deaf mice the ability to hear. “This is a great break through in the stem cell research and our hopes to bring hearing to the deaf.” Says, Dr. Cheng.

With all the new discoveries in stem cell research, being able to use these unique, lifesaving stem cells to possibly treat deadly disease, provides a great deal of hope for individuals whose prospects, due to disease, are poor at best. Now that we are coming to a point in the technique in which destruction of an embryo is unnecessary, I would urge you to put aside that unreasonable Frankenstein-esque phobia and ask yourself one simple question. If you were able to save a life, would you not do what it takes to do so? 

References

CNN Headline News Broadcasts (Jan. 2006) GCI cable network Channel 27 Alaska Fower, K., Abc7, (November, 30, 2005) “Stem Cell surgery in S. Korea” Retrieved December, 20, 2005 from: http://www.wjla.com/news/stories/1105/281912.html

National Institute of Health, (Aug. 2005) “Stem Cell Basics” Retrieved December, 16, 2005 from: http://www.stemcellbasics.nih.gov/info/basics

Newsbatch ( Nov. 2005) “Stem Cell Research Controversy” Retrieved January 16, 2006 from: http://www.newsbatch.com/stemcells.htm#3

Probe ministries (Oct 2005) “Stem Cells and the controversy over Therapeutic cloning” Retrieved January 17, 2006 from: http://www.probe.org/content/view/884/67/

Stem Cell Research Foundation, (Dec. 2005) “What’s New” Retrieved December, 20, 2005 from: http://www.stemcellresearchfoundation.org/whatsnew/december_2005.htm#3

The American intelligence wire, (Dec. 2005) University of Utah researchers identify regeneration gene that could help stem cell research” Retrieved December, 19, 2005 from:
http://web7.infotrac.galegroup.com/itw/infomark/659/211/75729768w7/purl=rc1_ITOF_0_A139590925&dyn=7!xrn_39_0_A139590925?sw_aep=uphoenix