Stem Cell Research - Pros and Cons
Stem cells are basic cells that can change into any other type of cell that our body needs. Most cells in the body begin as stem cells. Then, they grow into tissue of other body parts.
Cells in adults have a certain function. Most of these cells, for example, heart or liver cells cannot be changed. Scientists think that they can cure certain diseases by using stem cells. For example, a person who suffers from Parkinson’s disease could have stem cells turned into cells that replace damaged tissue. Stem cells can also be turned into healthy tissue to cure heart disease, diabetes, or a damaged backbone.
Today, research is concentrating on stem cells of embryos. Scientists create embryos in a lab by injecting a man’s sperm into a woman’s egg. Embryos can also be implanted into a female’s womb in order to make her pregnant.
Towards the end of the last century, scientists achieved a major breakthrough in stem cell research. For the first time they were able to grow stem cells from a human embryo that was only a few days old. The use of embryos to produce stem cells, however, is much debated. Those in favour say that embryonic stem cells can be used to grow any tissue that the body needs. They can also be used to test new medicine without putting humans in danger.
Critics, on the other hand, say that nobody gives us the right to use embryos as a spare part factory. They see embryos as human beings. Killing them after a few days is morally wrong. They say that stem cells should only be taken from adult tissue.
Adult stem cells are found in the skin, liver, bone marrow and other places. These natural stem cells repair damaged cells and replace them when they are needed. However, in contrast to embryos, adult stem cells are harder to get and may not last as long.
Medical experts point out possible risk factors in changing stem cells and transplanting them into an ill person’s body. Such transplants may transmit other diseases and stem cells may risk turning into cancer cells.
Scientists have recently conducted experiments that make stem cells out of blood cells. This could offer a fast and easy way of producing stem cells, but it may take many years until such a treatment is widely available.
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- achieve = succeed, to do something important
- adult = grown-up
- backbone = row of bones that are connected to each other and go down the middle of your back
- basic =main
- bone marrow = soft material in the centre of a bone
- breakthrough = important new discovery , after working for a long time
- cancer = disease in which cells in one part of the body start to grow in a way that is not normal
- century = a hundred years
- certain = special
- critic = someone who is against something or has doubts about it
- cure = heal; to make healthy again
- damage = destroy
- debate = discuss
- diabetes = disease in which there is too much sugar in your blod
- disease = illness
- embryo = animal or human that is not yet born and has just started to grow
- embryonic = from an embryo
- female = woman
- however = but
- human being = person
- implant = put into, insert
- in contrast to = as opposed to, different than
- in favour = to be for something
- liver = large organ in the body that cleans your blood
- moral = what we think is good or bad
- Parkinson’s disease = serious disease in which your muscles become very week and your arms and legs shake
- point out = explain, show
- pregnant = to have an unborn baby growing in your body
- recently = shortly, only a short time ago
- repair = fix
- replace = take the place of
- research = the studying of a subject, in order to get new facts about it
- right = allow
- scientist = person who works in a lab and tries to find out more about a certain topic
- spare part = here: a new organ that can replace an old, sick one
- sperm = male cells that can produce human life
- suffer = to feel pain
- tissue = the soft material that is formed from cells
- transmit = carry
- transplant = remove and put in another place
- treatment = cure, medicine
- widely available = here: not done as an experiment anymore but as something that is normal or standard
- womb = part of a woman’s body where her baby grows