Stem cell research: The truth behind the controversy

Tommy Dennen, Staff Writer

What do you know about stem cell research?

Does the phrase leave a bad taste in your mouth? Does the concept make you anxious about scientists’ ability to manipulate the human condition beyond the realm of what you consider ‘natural’? If you answered yes to either of these questions, I think you should change the way you think about this field, and change the way you might perceive future pioneer medicines.

The biotech industry deserves a better reputation. Chronic media bias and lackluster background research has channeled the conversation of the topic into a political, and nearly religious debate. Stem Cell Research’s (SCR) opponents should not lump it into the same conversation as abortion and reproductive rights, because no longer are scientists confined to harvesting stem cells from embryonic tissue and miscarriages.

You read that correctly; Modern research is slated to remove nearly all of the controversy surrounding SCR from the equation as more complex techniques become more mainstream. In order to understand how this is possible, and how the discovery of this technique has fully opened the door to the reality of regenerative medicine, observe this synopsis of a process called Cell Differentiation: the reason behind why stem cells are the keystone element in making regenerative medicine clinically useful, and ethically acceptable.

In a multicellular organism, such as a person, one will find a variety of different cell types. A skin cell, for example, has certain features (called organelles) within its membrane that make it a skin cell, and it has the ability to divide and proliferate to create more skin cells, but is not able to divide and create a different type of cell with different organelles. Stem cells are different and special because they can differentiate into many different types of cells, and technicians can graft them to a certain tissue type and begin to fortify said tissue and help it return to its native structure and function.

Now when you cut your hand, the affected skin cells know how to recombine and repair, so that the damage is not permanent. However if due to an accident or a disease you had a mass of tissue removed from say, an arm muscle or part of your liver, humans as mammals are incapable of full muscular and organ regeneration like members of amphibian phyla are, such as worms and salamanders.

So, since humans are incapable of said regeneration by their bodies natural healing, it is crucial mankind use stem cell research to achieve it. The applications are extensive. Imagine the ability to repair a shattered bone, an obliterated nerve, a damaged liver. It is a moral obligation to peruse stem cell research because it can heal such afflictions.

In short, stem cell research is a sophisticated and practical way to discover means of regenerating human cells by utilizing cells existing humans cells. It is not an unnatural manipulation of life or scheme to play god, it is utilizing science to harness life.