The Embryonic Advantage
The intervention of religious and political organizations has led to a huge set back in the fields of regenerative and therapeutic medicine. Because current United States lawmakers have deemed the application of embryonic stem cells in medicine to be immoral, the field of regenerative medicine has suffered a setback of over two decades. Stem cell research and the use of stem cells in patients with degenerative diseases is nothing short of a miracle, however by banning funding for this particular type of stem cell research a short ceiling for potential healing is established. Embryonic stem (ES) cells differ from all other cells by two crucial characteristics being their pluripotency and their ability to replicate indefinitely. (Zacharias 635) These two characteristics are what make ES cells the most beneficial option for preventing and reversing tissue loss among patients afflicted with degenerative illnesses.
Pluripotency is the ability of stem cells derived from embryos to differentiate into any of the more than 220 types of cells in the human body. And because these cells are able to replicate indefinitely, their potential to cure diseases is truly limitless. Based on previous research trials by Geron Corporation, a California-based biotech company, researchers have found that embryonic stem cells are able to repair myelin sheaths (of the spinal cord) and will most likely be able to restore some of a patients mobility. (Reinberg) In other words a paralyzed individual stands to regain some of his/her mobility back after undergoing embryonic stem cell therapy.
When compared to other methods of stem cell therapy, such as those derived from bone marrow tissue for example, the differences are enormous. Cells taken from bone marrow are only able to differentiate into other bone or cartilage cells. This means that they are utterly useless when trying to give a patient back his bowel function or mobility after a paralyzing automobile accident. These fixes can only be accomplished with the utilization of ES cells, and would lead to sensational gains in quality of life, as is apparent.
Laws and regulations currently stand in this country that this type of procedure is not allowed. A country founded by innovators that has been known to provide the best in so many other fields, such as NASA’s space program, superior defense programs and technology is quickly falling behind when it comes to saving and improving the lives of its citizens. Because religious principles have stood in the way, this nightmare has become a blinding reality in the faces of those who understand its true potential. United States programs have remained the best because of continued funding, for example in 2011 the Department of Defense was given $548.9 billion in funding, NASA alone received $6 billion all while the funding for embryonic stem cell research has remained steady at $0. (US budget 2011) Without the necessary funding the potency of embryonic stem cells will never be realized.
The cause of the current policies concerning ES cell research dates back to 1996 when the Dickey-Wicker Amendment was passed stating that no federal funding should be given to research in which any part of a human embryo was destroyed. After wading through the current state of muddlement concerning issues like this, it becomes clear that this amendment itself stemmed from the fact that most people holding political offices are of the opinion that a human embryo should be regarded as a living human being and therefore has rights protecting it. Being that the point of this essay is to establish a cause and effect rather than to establish why this point of view is incorrect, delving too deeply into the contradictory nature of this opinion is unnecessary. However, it is important to note that there is an obvious inconsistency among these same politicians when it comes to defining a life, such is the case in the current abortion laws.
The cause of these preventative laws has its basis in Christian ideals that have invaded political agendas and have swayed the decision making process. While ideals that are held by over three quarters of the United States population should not be disregarded all together, but rather should be used at discretion and weighed against what stands to be lost. In the case of ES cell laws, what stands to be lost is huge gains in quality of living, independence as well as lives themselves.
Zacharias, David G. et. al. Science and Ethics of Induced Pluripotency Mayo Clinic Proceedings 2011 Academic Search Premier. Web. 11 Apr. 2012.
NEW SOURCE: Reinberg, Stephen. OKs 1st Embryonic Stem Cell Trial Washington Post. The Washington Post, 23 Jan. 2009. Web. 11 Apr. 2012.
NEW SOURCE: FDsys – Browse BUDGET. U.S. Government Printing Office Home Page Web. 11 Apr. 2012.