The Bioethical Use of Stem Cells in Research and Therapy

Stem cells are one of the most researched things on the planet. Even though there have been countless studies stating the efficacy of stem cells in animals, there is still no substantial evidence to indicate that it is safe and effective for humans.

Still, a lot of money is being spent on the research of stem cells because they can purportedly be manipulated or engineered into specialized cells to the scientists and doctors’ liking.

However, even though this is one of the most researched things in the entire world, there are some bioethical implications that you need to be aware of and that is something that I will discuss in this article.

Even though the use of adult stem cells is already considered controversial, it is the harvest and use of human embryonic stem cells that take the cake when it comes to moral and ethical implications on its use in both research and therapy.

Human Embryonic Stem Cell Ethics

hESCs are stem cells that are harvested from blastocysts which are early-day embryos that haven’t fully formed into a fetus yet. These are harvested for their stem cells mainly because most of its cells are not differentiated yet or have not been formed into specialized cells.

Although the use of hESCs was given the green light before, pro-life groups despise the idea of its use mainly because the resulting embryos are considered dead already. Furthermore, doing this would not bode well for religious groups.

In order for scientists to still use stem cells for research, the Council on Bioethics back in 2005 have recommended that researchers come up with a new way to harvest pluripotent stem cells (this is originally a trait found in human embryonic stem cells).

The committee was able to propose four different approaches. Stem cell researchers could obtain stem cells either from dead embryos, from living embryos using nondestructive biopsy, stem cells that were created from bioengineered artifacts that have embryo-like properties, and cells that were obtained from somatic cells that haven’t differentiated yet.

Stem Cell Therapy Today

Scientists have managed to create induced pluripotent stem cells in favorable lab environments and they are able to coax them to turn into whatever cell they need.

Although the use of stem cells has been well-researched, there are only two approved therapies: hematopoietic stem cell transplants for treating patients with Leukemia, and epithelial stem cell treatments that are typically given to people suffering from burns or corneal disorders.

A lot of people all over the world still do not know anything about stem cells that is why those who are looking for some treatment for their conditions will usually believe what some clinicians and doctors say.

This puts the general public at huge risk because aside from the two approved therapeutic practices, all of the other ones are deemed as experimental and may pose a huge threat or danger to the ones who are going to take them.

The ISSCR is now creating efforts to inform the public. For the general consumer, it would be best that you keep yourself informed at all times.

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