Should You Care About Stem Cell Research

To understand the controversy, first understand cell function

By

dLife founder Howard Steinberg recently interviewed Speaker of The House Nancy Pelosi to discuss the use of stem cells for research (the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007; H.R.3) . This bill was approved by the House of Representatives on January 11, 2007, but President Bush has threatened to veto it. If it survives his veto, the bill will increase the number of stem cell lines (families) that can be used in federally funded research. What could this mean to you?

What are Stem Cells?

Stem cells are unique cells in our bodies that have three special abilities:

1. They can develop into cells that have specific functions, such as heart cells that help pump blood, red blood cells that deliver oxygen, or nerve cells that transmit messages.

2. They can divide and take whatever role is needed. When a stem cell divides, each "daughter" cell either remains a stem cell or becomes another type of cell with a more specific function, such as a red blood cell or a brain cell.

3. In addition to dividing, they can renew themselves for very long periods of time. Regular cells cannot do this.

Two Types

Stem cells come in two types: adult and embryonic. Embryonic stem cells have the greatest potential. They have no specific identity and can develop into different types of cells that may have been damaged from an injury or from diseases such as Parkinson's and Diabetes. These ultra-flexible cells exist in 5-day old human embryos.

Adult stem cells already have some identity and aren't quite as flexible. They can develop into other types of cells, but only if they are placed in a part of the body that resembles where they came from. Adult brain stem cells that are placed into a pancreas will probably not develop into pancreatic cells. But embryonic stem cells that are placed in the pancreas will develop into new pancreatic cells.

The Controversy

Many people are concerned about the source of embryonic stem cells. When many infertile couples try to conceive, they use a procedure called in-vitro fertilization – they donate egg and sperm samples to a lab where they are fertilized. Then several fertilized eggs are implanted into the female partner. Not all will successfully grow into fetuses, but many will. Unused fertilized eggs will never become babies because they are never placed into wombs. They are frozen, tossed out, or destroyed. If not used, they will die naturally within a few days.

Is it wrong to use embryos that will be destroyed to help save lives? This is what must be decided. Listen to the Howard Steinberg's interview with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi on dLife.com and become informed. We are about to embark on a new chapter in medical history. We must enter it with great hope, care, and information.

Janis Roszler, RD, CDE, LD/N

 

NOTE: The information is not intended to be a replacement or substitute for consultation with a qualified medical professional or for professional medical advice related to diabetes or another medical condition. Please contact your physician or medical professional with any questions and concerns about your medical condition.

 

Last Modified Date: June 20, 2013

All content on dLife.com is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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