Is stem cell research ethical? To find out, first we must look at exactly what stem cell research is and what it involves.
Stem cell research first began in the 1960's. Stem cells are cells found in multicellular organisms that have the capability to renew itself, by creating more stem cells. They can be extracted from bone marrow, lipid cells, blood, and from umbilical cord blood. The safest manner is to use one's own cells. Adult stem cells are often used medically for things like bone marrow transplants.
A lot of controversy surrounds the use of embryonic stem cells. These cells are harvested in the early stage, which causes the fertilized embryo to die. Most come from women who chose in vitro fertilization and are donated for research purposes, or left overs from fertility clinics. The cells are transferred from the embryo into a culture dish in a laboratory, where they are carefully cultured and studied. The best time to extract cells is when the fetus is four weeks old.
Scientists believe this research is necessary to provide treatments and cures for illnesses such as Alzheimer's disease, heart problems, Parkinson's, and many others. Stem cells can create other types of cells like those needed for muscles, blood, tissue, and the brain. They can also repair or replace organs.
One major problem in embryonic stem cell research is that when introduced in the body, tumors begin to grow. While being grown in a laboratory some mutate or clump together. They are also known to grow very large tumors called 'teratomas', which can get larger than a football and contain eyes, hair, and teeth! This has caused some pharmaceutical companies to stop pursuing this research.
Some scientists claim that adult stem cells are far more effective than embryonic stem cells. These scientists say that studies show when adult stem cells are introduced into the body, the cells travel to the area that needs to be repaired. Adult stem cells are easily extracted from the blood of umbilical cords without any harmful effects.
While I can see both sides of the argument, I am one to also believe that life starts at conception. The Bible states that God knew us before we were even formed in the womb (Jeremiah 1:5). It is my opinion that if something is growing, then it's alive, whether created in the womb or in a dish. And while I do feel that researching for ways to cure diseases is important and beneficial, I also feel that there are other means of doing so. I know there are probably thousands if not millions of people out there who will disagree with me, and that's okay. We are all entitled to our opinion, and that's what makes this one of the most controversial topics in history.