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Essay about Alternatives to Human-embryo Stem-cell Research

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Alternatives to Human-embryo Stem-cell Research

This essay counters the media and many scientists' claims that there are no viable alternatives to human-embryo stem-cell research (ESCR).

The media restate the claim (made repeatedly in NIH documents) that adult stem cells do not have the same potential as embryonic stem cells, which in theory can form any tissue. But studies done with adult stem cells (studies which mirror the ones done with embryonic stem cells) show that adult stem cells do have the capacity to form essentially any tissue.

The most misleading term which continues to be used is "pluripotent." Literally, this means able to form most (but not all) tissues. This term continues to be used
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The best sources are from our own organs termed "adult stem cells" or "tissue stem cells." Another excellent source is cord blood; the small amount of blood left in an umbilical cord after it is detached from a newborn is rich in stem cells. In the last two years, we've gone from thinking that we had very few stem cells in our bodies, to recognizing that many (perhaps most) organs maintain a reservoir of these cells.

We've known for some time that bone-marrow stem cells can make more blood, but now we know that these adult stem cells can also make bone, muscle, cartilage, heart tissue, liver, and even brain. Interestingly enough, we now know that our brain contains stem cells which can be stimulated to make more neurons, or to take up different job descriptions as muscle or blood. Bone marrow and cord blood are already successfully being used clinically, while clinical use of embryonic stem cells is years away. Current clinical applications of adult stem cells include treatments for cancer, arthritis, lupus, and making new corneas, to name a few.

One distinct advantage of using our own adult stem cells is that there will be no transplant rejection, since it is our own tissue. Use of human embryonic stem cells will require lifelong use of drugs to prevent rejection of the tissue. Or, the patient will have to be
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