Genetic Engineering - Cloning, DNA, Stem Cells Pros and Cons
Molecular genetics

The future technology

Stem Cell Controversy

There exists a widespread controversy over stem cell research that emanates from the techniques used in the creation and usage of stem cells. Embryonic stem cell research is particularly controversial because, with the present state of technology, starting an embryonic stem cell line requires the destruction of a human embryo and/or therapeutic cloning.

Some opponents of the research also argue that this practice is a slippery slope to reproductive cloning and tantamount to the instrumentalization of a potential human being. Contrarily, medical researchers in the field argue that it is necessary to pursue embryonic stem cell research because the resultant technologies are expected to have significant medical potential, and that the embryos used for research are only those slated for destruction anyway.

The ensuing debate has prompted authorities around the world to seek regulatory frameworks and highlighted the fact that stem cell research represents a social and ethical challenge.

The status of the human embryo and human embryonic stem cell research is a controversial issue as, with the present state of technology, the creation of a human embryonic stem cell line requires the destruction of a human embryo. Stem cell debates have motivated and reinvigorated the ‘pro-life’ movement whose members have concerned themselves with the rights and status of the embryo as an early-aged human life.

They believe that embryonic stem cell research instrumentalizes and violates the sanctity of life and constitutes murder . The fundamental assertion of those who oppose embryonic stem cell research is the belief that human life is inviolable, combined with the opinion that human life begins when a sperm cell fertilizes an egg cell to form a single cell.

Most stem cell researchers use embryos that were created but not used in in vitro fertility treatments to derive new stem cell lines. Most of these embryos are slated to be destroyed, or stored indefinitely. In the United States alone, there are at least 400,000 such embryos. This has lead some opponents of abortion, such as Senator Orrin Hatch, to support human embryonic stem cell research.

Medical researchers submit that stem cell research has the potential to dramatically alter approaches to understanding and treating diseases, and to alleviate suffering. In the future, most medical researchers anticipate being able to use technologies derived from stem cell research to treat a variety of diseases and impairments.

Spinal cord injuries and Parkinson's disease are two examples that have been championed by high-profile media personalities (i.e. Christopher Reeve and Michael J. Fox). The anticipated medical benefits of stem cell research have added a certain amount of emotion and urgency to the debates, which has been exploited by proponents of embryonic stem cell research.

Next: Arguments for Embryonic Stem Cell Research...

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