What Is Embryonic Stem Cell Research?


BY NATALIE GRONHOLM

Photo By John Alan Elson (http://www.3dham.com/microgallery/) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

One cannot discuss embryonic stem cell research (ESCR) without first introducing the topic of in vitro fertilization (IVF). Often, when a couple tries and fails to get pregnant over a long period of time, a popular method of aid they turn to is IVF, which involves fertilizing an egg with sperm outside the body of the woman and then later placing the fertilized egg in the woman's uterus, where it is expected to come to term naturally. Most of the time, doctors will attempt to fertilize more than one egg in vitro, and not all of the resulting embryos will be transferred to the woman's womb. So what happens to the "leftover" embryos?

The woman involved in the IVF procedure will usually do one of three things: allow the embryos to be used by other hopeful IVF patients, donate the embryos to research, or have them destroyed. It is the second of the three that leads to the topic we are going to explore: ESCR. ESCR requires taking stem cells from an embryo through a process which results in the embryo's destruction. The reason stem cells are being researched in the first place is because they have the potential for infinite replication and the capacity to become one of three different types of cells that make up different parts of the body (for example, muscle). Why is this important?

Proponents of ESCR hold that the research is important because it could lead to medical breakthroughs in regenerative medicine, aiding in recovery from setbacks like ripped muscle tissue to life-threatening diseases such as cancer. Because of the potential good ESCR is poised to do, people see no harm in it (or, at least, more good than evil). However, obtaining embryonic stem cells to research requires the destruction of an embryo, a living person; and is the life of a human being worth this path on the search to cure even the worst of cancers?

The answer is no, because each human life has the same dignity and is worth the same: an immeasurable amount. Nothing is worth the life of a human being. That being said, there are alternatives to ESCR that pro-lifers have proposed since the beginning, one being adult stem cell research. This research is not controversial because obtaining adult stem cells does not require ending the life of a human being. It is possible to regrow an entire adult organ from just a few cells because the cells have the ability to regenerate indefinitely, like the embryonic stem cells. In fact, in 2008, a woman was grown a new trachea using her own stem cells. Neat, huh? And no humans were harmed in the making of that body part. Become proponents of adult stem cell research! (And save the babies!)

#embryonicstemcellresearch

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