Is there a cure to diseases that affect the masses like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, diabetes and heart conditions? Could there even be a cure to cancer? Scientists around the world are saying possibly. Since research has linked stem cells to possible cures for a variety of health issues, these very important cells are grabbing a lot of attention.
Stem cells are unspecialized cells that are capable of turning into any tissue in the body. They are usually found in two forms: embryonic and adult stem cells. Embryonic stem cells are the cells found in the stages of an embryo right after a woman becomes pregnant. The stem cells develop shortly after an egg is first fertilized, and they can turn into any tissue or organ that the fetus needs.
Adult stem cells are undeveloped cells found mainly in the brain and in blood. They are able to grow into a limited number of cell types. Most stem cell research is conducted on embryonic cells because they are believed to show the most potential.
Stem cells are cells not yet designated to organ in the body, so scientists can manipulate these cells to turn into whatever type of cell is needed to help a sick patient. Proposed treatments using stem cells include physical trauma, degenerative conditions or even genetic diseases. Stem cells can also potentially replace damaged cells in the body. However, the way that scientists are researching these cells has stemmed into a huge debate.
The process has caused ethical and social controversy since some scientists extract the cells from aborted fetuses or create embryos through in vitro fertilization to derive the cells. Most of the stem cells used are embryonic stem cells because they are more versatile than adult stem cells.
Religious beliefs also become a issue. Religious figures argue that embryos represent a human life and claim that producing stem cells through these methods is morally unacceptable.
The question of who should fund stem cell research is a key point in the debate. Should the government provide funding for stem cell research or should private institutions continue to exhaust their limited funds? With government funding comes strict regulations. To what extent should stem cell research be regulated?
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