The Heated Debate Concerning Stem Cell Research Essay

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Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Stem cells are the newest "hot" topic in biological research. Very few other ongoing areas of research have been the focus of numerous articles, Presidential and Congressional scrutiny, and numerous ethical debates played out in the national media. This ongoing focus on stem cells is due in part to their amazing potential and in part to the controversial nature of one type of stem cell—the embryonic stem cell. The key question that is being dealt with is the issue of Federal funding for research with embryonic stem cells; the underlying issues of this simple question cause strong opinions and necessitate serious ethical considerations.

This study is intended to shape a personal position on the subject
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Embryonic stem cells are unlike any adult stem cell. They are only found naturally in the early stages of embryonic development and are totipotent—i.e. they can form ANY type of adult cell or adult cell precursor. Another type of stem cell which has properties similar to the embryonic stem cell is the embryonic germ cell, derived from the primordial reproductive cells of the developing fetus. Too often stem cells are lumped together into one category. However, all stem cells do not share common characteristics or sources and it is important to distinguish between various types of stem cells.

Embryonic stem cells can be derived by a number of methods.1

Human embryos created by invitro-fertilization as a method for overcoming infertility that are later donated by couples that no longer had plans to use the embryos. (Embryonic Stem Cells)

Human fetal tissue following elective abortion. (Embryonic Germ Cells)
Human Embryos created by invitro-fertilization with gametes donated for the sole purpose of providing research materials. (Embryonic Stem Cells)

Human (or hybrid) embryos generated asexually by somatic cell nuclear transfer of the adult human cell nucleus into an enucleated human or animal ovum. (potential source of Embryonic Stem Cells)
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