Since the inception of stem cell research, controversy has unfortunately dominated much of the debate without properly considering the potential benefit it may bring to humanity.
Stem cell research involves the manipulation and transfer of undesignated cells in hopes of regenerating other body cells that have been affected by general degeneration. This includes organ failure, tissue damage and even specific ailments like cancer, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. A stem cell may be used to create additional cells for skin, bone, liver, muscle, fat and even nerves. They are all crucial to the development and maintenance of the human body’s immune system.
This research also occasionally utilizes cells from human embryos—which is where most of the moral debate “stems” from. Critics of stem cell research typically condemn the practice for ethical reasons. Opponents claim it destroys life and physicians “play God” in terms of deciding the fate of a lab-grown human embryo.
Without truly lending credence to the wonders of advanced medicine, anti-stem cell critics aren’t realizing that this research could potentially be “God’s work.” After all, such procedures unequivocally lead to the extension and increased protection of human life.
Moral obligations aside, the arguments against stem cell research on the basis of embryonic origins have more to do with a misunderstanding of science and less to do with the substantiated concern of saving unborn lives.
Embryonic cells used in stem cell research are typically three to five days old. They are fertilized in vitro within a clinical setting and are provided with consent by the donors.
So say, for instance, a mother with fertility issues utilized eggs from a donor and was over-fertilized. Instead of terminating the remaining pregnancies, the mother could donate the additional eggs to stem cell research—thus saving herself from a difficult and otherwise harmful pregnancy—and allow other people who are combating illness to seek a potentially life-saving alternative.
Concerns about how sensitive the embryos may be are also irrelevant, seeing as how those used in stem cell research are only a couple of days old. Fetuses do not fully contain the neurological pathways necessary to feel pain until they are 24 weeks old.
Much like the anti-vaccination movement, many critics against stem cell research are unfortunately misguided on the subject. While the concern is noble, resistance to advances in modern medicine that may ultimately be the deciding factor in how we treat potentially catastrophic diseases isn’t a step back from the right direction but an unnecessary fear of moving forward.
Follow Greg Arellano on Twitter @GregGonewild.