With a hotly contested ethical debate in regenerative medicine, embryonic stem cell research is gaining acceptance and support from all corners of the globe. Advocacy for embryonic stem cell research has increased because scientists are now able to offer many sources of stem cells beyond human embryos and their life-saving abilities are becoming clearer every day.
Embryonic Stem Cell Research | The Debate and Need for Advocacy
In this article:
- What are Embryonic Stem Cells
- The Debate Over Embryonic Stem Cell Research
- Other Sources of Embryonic Stem Cells
- The State of the Controversy Today
- Being a Patient Advocate
What are Embryonic Stem Cells
Most human stem cells can only divide a certain number of times before losing their ability to copy themselves reliably. On the other hand, human embryonic stem cells seem capable of doing so indefinitely. Moreover, they have the ability to turn into a wide variety of cells that make up structures all over the body.
The Debate Over Embryonic Stem Cell Research
For many years, stem cell research has proven to be a matter of serious debate because one of the best sources of stem cells are human embryos. In the early stages, an embryo is rich in the stem cells that become the wide variety of specialized cells needed to make up a human being. Those who advocate for the life of every child have objected to harvesting stem cells on these grounds.
Other Sources of Embryonic Stem Cells
Stem cell researchers are continuing to discover different ways to harvest embryonic stem cells without giving rise to the controversy of destroying human life in its early stages:
- Umbilical Cord Blood: This is the source where the first embryonic stem cells were discovered in the 1970s.
- In vitro fertilization: Embryonic stem cell lines created using in vitro fertilization for reproductive treatment when the embryos are no longer needed. This includes written consent from the donors involved.
- Tissue-specific stem cells: Scientists have been able to convert these adult stem cells into embryonic stem cells. Non-embryonic stem cells can be harvested from the skin, blood, bone marrow, and teeth of consenting adults.
The State of the Controversy Today
The good news is, public opinion about stem cell research continues to swing in its favor. As of 2015, according to Research America, almost 50 percent of those polled were in favor and fewer than 25 percent opposed it, while 20 percent were undecided. With opinion already swinging in defense of stem cells, supporters can do more by convincing the last 20 percent.
Being a Patient Advocate
Being a patient advocate may be the most useful way to support embryonic stem cell research. Supporters can bring the message to others at conferences and hearings and offer testimonials about their experiences. You can also lobby for the rights of patients dealing with a disease targeted by stem cell research. Such as patients suffering from a spinal cord injury or diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and Huntington’s diseases.
Watch this video from TED to meet an advocate of embryonic stem cell research!
Stem cell advocacy efforts are growing all the time but remain as critical as ever. By working as a patient advocate, you can help increase federal funding for stem cell research and advance the use of stem cells in regenerative medicine. But most importantly, advocacy can help correct the misconceptions about embryonic stem cell research.
What’s your stand on the debate over embryonic stem cell research? Share your thoughts and experience with us in the comments section below!
Editor’s Note – This was originally published on November 30, 2017 and has been updated for quality and relevancy.