Stem Cell Research and Legislation Project
Stem cell research is a subject that raises controversy among all sorts of groups on the basis of ethics and religious beliefs. Stem cells are unspecialized human or animal cells that can produce mature specialized body cells and at the same time replicate themselves (Kail 2008). Researchers believe that stem cell research is a medical treatment breakthrough. The researchers believe that stem cells regenerate damaged body tissues and can be used to treat diseases like leukemia, Parkinson’s disease, or Alzheimer’s disease. Although there has been a large increase and acceptance for stem cell research, some aspects of the research, such as cloning, has not received the same approval. Cloning is not accepted by most countries involved in stem cell research and has been outlawed by most. To understand the legislation and the reasoning behind it you have to have a better understanding on what stem cell research is and the different approaches. Stem cells can be derived from different sources such as a blastocyst (a young embryo), an umbilical cord, the placenta, blood, bone marrow, skin, and other tissues. There are three basic types of stem cells.
1. Embryonic stem cells: Embryonic stem cells are derived from a blastocyst. A blastocyst contains 200 to 250 cells. (Kail 2008)
2. Tissue stem cells or “Adult” stem cells: Included in this category are blood and skin cells, cord blood cells, Mesenchyme stem cells, and libal stem cells. For example, stem cells that fall under this category can be derived from bone marrow, blood, or the umbilical cord.
3. Induced pluripotent stem cells, or ‘reprogrammed’ stem cells: Specialized adult cells that can be ‘reprogrammed’ into cells that behave like embryonic stem cells (Eurostemcell.org, 2012).
Both induced pluripotent stem cells and embryonic stem cells can be used to grow nearly any cell type in the lab under precisely controlled conditions. Both types of cells have the capability of being able to divide and produce copies of themselves indefinitely (Eurostemcell.org, 2012). Many people believe that deriving embryonic stem cells is unethical and scientists are deliberately killing an innocent human being. Inducing pluripotent stem cells can be done without the destruction of the early embryo and is accepted more so by society. The same goes for adult stem cells. Adult stem cells can be obtained without harming the donor. This is where most of the controversy derives from. Should researchers be allowed to create or destroy an embryo for research purposes? When is an embryo considered to be a living person? Isn’t research with adult stem cells or induced pluripotent stem cells sufficient enough? We have to ask ourselves what is ethical and morally right.
The United States has never had a federal law that banned stem cell research in the United States. Congress has only issued restrictions on the spending of federal funds for the research. The US government has refused to fund embryo research, including introvert fertilization, because Congress feared it would encourage women to have abortions after the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v Wade legalized abortion ("Stem cell laws," 2012).
On August 9th, 2001, Former President George W. Bush announced that if certain criteria were met, then federal funds may be awarded for research using human embryonic stem cells. This was the first time that the Unites States funded research on stem cells. The criteria Bush set included:
The derivation process (which begins with the destruction of the embryo) was initiated prior to 9:00 P.M. EDT on August 9, 2001 (NIH, 2012).
The stem cells must have been derived from an embryo that was created for reproductive purposes and was no longer needed (NIH, 2012).
Informed consent must have been obtained for the donation of the embryo and that donation must not have involved financial inducements (NIH, 2012).
The House of Representative voted to loosen…