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Stem Cell Research

How do you feel about stem cell research?

Poll closed Mar 23, 2005.
  1. I support it.

    17 vote(s)
  2. I'm against it.

    0 vote(s)
  3. I've got mixed emotions about it.

    2 vote(s)
  4. I don't really know enough to make a fair decision.

    1 vote(s)
  1. Mar 19, 2005 #1
    This is something that I have been thinking about lately. :rolleyes: I wanted to address it from a biological view, not a political one. Stem cell research is very contraversial, not only in the political world, but the biological one as well. I was curious as to what everyone here had to say about it and/or what questions people have. I know I certainly have some:

    What are some of the benefits to stem cell research?
    What have people discovered so far?
    Where do the stem cells come from?
    Could we use the stem cells from aborted pregnancies for research?
    What kind of diseases could benefit from this kind of research? Could they all benefit?

    There are others, but that should get everyone started. :biggrin: As far as the poll goes, nothing in it is meant to offend or hurt anyone's feelings. So please take it with a grain of salt. Its just to get an idea of how the scientific community feels about stem cell research. :rolleyes:

    I would just like to request that everyone respect everyone elses' opinions even if you don't agree with them. Everyone who reads or posts in this thread has a valid opinion in one way or another. Just so everyone knows.
    Alright, I'll leave you to talk amounst yourselves now. :smile:
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 19, 2005 #2
    Embryonic stem cells come from five-to seven-day human embryos.
    Adult stem cells come from a variety of sources, including skin cells, bone marrow, placenta, umbilical cord blood and body fat.
  4. Mar 19, 2005 #3
    So how would the scientists who work with stem cells get them? I mean what is the most efficient way for them to get the stem cells they need? It sounds like an ignorant question, but I know little about the whole thing and its been a topic that has been discussed quite a bit lately. Besides I'm here to expand my knowledge of the world.:smile:
  5. Mar 20, 2005 #4


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    Advantages of using stem cells are that they're pluripotent (they can grow out to almost any tissue type), they have self-renewing properties, and they can divide indefinately.

    In 1968 the first bone marrow transplant was successfulling used for the treatment of SCID. In 1981 mouse embryonic stem cells were first isolated, in 1998 human embryonic stem cells were first characterized.

    Stem cells can be derived from the inner cell mass of a blastocyst (spare IVF embryos, cloned embryos), from the germ layer of aborted fetuses, umbilical cord blood, or from adult tissues.

    Interesting is that stem cells respond to tissue injury, some diseases that could benifit (and have been shown to benefit) are Parkinson (replacing destroyed dopamine-secreting midbrain neurons), diabetes (transplanting insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells), myocardial infarction (regenerating cardiac muscle cells in the damaged heart), spinal cord injury (bridging broken neurons together (christopher reeve)), multiple sclerosis (remyelination).

    This was true for last year:
    1 Reproductive cloning banned by the UN in 1998
    2 Permitted research:
    --Therapeutic cloning: Israel, Sweden, UK, USA (+/-)
    --Surplus embryos: Netherlands, France, Australia, Japan
    --Import: Germany
    3 Complete ban:

    Some ethical principles in stem cell research:
    -The research must serve an important goal
    -There is no suitable alternative to reach that goal
    -Not more embryos are used than required
    -Research is limited to 14 days after fertilization
  6. Mar 20, 2005 #5
    Would you say that in a nation with a true separation of church and state (or religion and state), there would be less ethical issues and stem cell research wouldn't be so looked down upon?
  7. Mar 20, 2005 #6


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    This site provided by the NIH (National Institutes of Health) contains a very thorough explanation about stem cell research, and should answer all your questions (the site was developed because the types of questions you're asking are asked often).

  8. Mar 20, 2005 #7
    A word of caution about NIH. President Clinton allowed researchers there to have outside financial stake in research - in other words a conflict of interest. thus, recommendations may reflect a desire to encourage approaches that would benefit those at NIH making the recommendation. The L A Times had an article on the general issue last month.

    The NIH preference for embryonic cells over adult stem cells may reflect a conflict of interest. Embryonic cell developments may be more patentable, and thus more profitable, than developments related to adult stem cells. Also the need to find compatible cells provides a greater potential for profit than using the patient's own cells.
  9. Mar 20, 2005 #8

    You need to rephrase the poll. The media are misrepresenting the issue by presenting those opposed to use of embryonic cells as opposing stem cell research in general. The only controversy involves embryonic cells. The media are also misrepresenting this controversy by suggesting that opposition is based solely on ethical questions.

    There is also a scientific issue. Adult stem cells are already being used to treat a wide variety of disorders including Parkinson's and spinal cord injuries. Harvard is preparing to conduct a clinical trial of an adult stem cell based treatment that has been successful in treating mice with Type I(juvenile) diabetes.
    If you would like to donate to this research you can go to

    Human embryonic research is still in the early stages with scientists attempting to overcome problems with embryonic cells including an occasional tendency to produce tumors and extra chromosomes.(New England Journal of Medicine, 3/25/04)

    Human embryoes are also potentially more subject to having defective genes than lab mice(which are strictly controlled for genetics) which could be a problem in finding donor cells. There also may be the same compatibility problems commonly associated with donated organs.

    For more on adult stem cell treatments see:
    I have an essay on the subject with links to various articles on my website. Most of the links are to news releases at sciencedaily.com because it archives the articles, unlike some research sites. Many of the articles include citations to articles in scientific journals.

    Last edited: Mar 20, 2005
  10. Mar 20, 2005 #9


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    My friends and I got a good laugh at this poll. Althought only 8 people voted, there's currently 100% support for stem cell research. Sort of makes me wonder where the crazy idea of it being controversial comes from.
  11. Mar 21, 2005 #10
    Good to know that I can let people have a good laugh and discussion over the topic, thats what I was going for. :smile:

    I can fix the poll, but I need to know what to adjust. If someone could point me in a general direction it would be most helpful.

    Continuing on the topic: Why would human stem cells have a higher defect rate than lab mice?
  12. Mar 21, 2005 #11


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    As Monique alludes to, one of the advantages of using stem cells (not only for humans but for other animals as well) is in regeneration of damaged organs. Many tissues that have become specialized and in the adult, do not regenerate spontaneously (e.g. heart, lung, pancreas, kidney, brain).

    If you damaged one of these organs, wouldn't it be nice if we had a way to grow you a new one using your own tissue? :rolleyes:
  13. Mar 22, 2005 #12


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    Children regenerate very easily after injury, adult heal very poorly compared to them. Since stem cells disappear as we get older, there could be an interesting link.

    There was an interesting report about how stem cells migrate and incorporate themselves in tissues. They injected stem cells in the brain and followed them to see if they incorporated themselves, but the stem cells were nowhere to be found. They thought their experiment had failed.
    Then somehow they found out that when they create an injury in the brain, the stem cells do incorporate. A very specialized system is at hand and I think we can still learn a lot from stem cell research.
  14. Mar 22, 2005 #13
    Monique, what do you mean "when they create an injury in the brain, the stem cells do incorporate."? Do you mean that stem cells will try to regenerte the part of the brain that has been damaged?
  15. Mar 23, 2005 #14
    Reproduction of lab mice is strictly regulated to insure that the genes are known. Having different genetic strains of mice might compromise the integrity of some research designed to detect that impact of some chemical on the health of the mice. Specific strains of mice are developed for research in specific disorders.

    Human rerproduction isn't controlled. Humans have accumulated significant numbers of defective genes. Human embryoes thus are more likely to have defective genes, including cases in which they receive two copies of the same defective gene. For some genes receiving two defective genes may mean a person will have some form of Muscular Dystrophy or perhaps a greater risk of cancer or heart disease later in life.

    However, for other genes the defects may result in development problems during the embryonic stage that result in defects in specific types of cells or death of the embryo. Still other defective genes might be turned on some time after the embryonic stage, including being turned on in someone past the age of puberty.

    Although many defective genes are known, they may be many more that are still unknown. For organ or bone marrow transplants, problems associated with defective genes are likely to be known even if the genes have not been identified. The same situation would be the case for use of the patient's own adult stem cells. However, for embryonic stem cell transplants the existence of defects might not be knowable until after the patient has received the cells.
  16. Mar 28, 2005 #15
    Actually they do regenerate, including the brain. Lupus researchers are experimenting with treatments based on reeducating the immune system to stop attacks on various different areas of the body. Regeneration occurs after the immune system is treated.


    Cleveland Clinic researchers identified stromal cell derived factor-1 (SDF-1) that provides a signal that attracts stem cells to repair damaged heart tissue after a heart attack.


    This particular gene has been found to be defective in many Americans who have Type 1 Diabetes, but not in Japanese.
  17. Mar 28, 2005 #16
    Yes, the brain does replace damaged tissue, although slowly, and continues to produce new neurons. Scientific American ran a series of articles with summaries on advances in brain research about last Sep. or Oct.
  18. Apr 22, 2005 #17
    New Scientist is reporting that a recent study indicates that embryonic stem cells aren't the only ones that might produce cancerous tumors. Adult stem cells that are reproduced too many times outside(possibly over 100 times) the body may also produce cancers. In particular a Danish research team discovered that permantently turning on the telomerase gene in mesenchymal stem cells may cause them to become cancerous. http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=mg18624965.200

    This discovery could indicate that the practice of storing stem cells in stem cell banks for long periods may be unsafe.

    Incidentally, stem cells have long been suspected of being the source of cancer cells in part because of the telomarase gene being turned on. This gene restores small sections of DNA on the ends of chromosomes(telomeres) after the loss of some of the base pairs following reproduction. The loss of too many of telomeres can result in the cell selfdestructing.
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