9 Pros and Cons of Embryonic Stem Cell Research

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9 Pros and Cons of Embryonic Stem Cell Research

How we define life matters. Does life begin at conception? Does it begin when a heartbeat can be detected? At a later point in time?

Many people have differing opinions about the start of life. Some even believe that life begins before conception. That is why the embryonic stem cell research pros and cons can be controversial from both sides of the debate.

Here are some of the key points to consider.

List of the Embryonic Stem Cell Research Pros

1. It makes use of discarded embryos.
There are more than 400,000 embryos currently in storage right now, just in the United States. Many of these are frozen and will never be used during their time of viability. Through embryonic stem cell research, these embryos are guaranteed to not go to waste.

2. There are ethical methods of harvesting.
Embryonic stem cells are not created only through embryo destruction. They can also be obtained through cord blood. Even cord blood in long-term storage provides access to stem cells that could be used for research purposes.

3. They are obtained with consent.
Modern IVF treatments created multiple embryos. The goal is to create enough embryos from the treatment process to eventually create a pregnancy. If a pregnancy occurs early on in the process, the remaining embryos may no longer be needed. Through a process of consent, the stem cells can be taken from the extras created to provide potential treatments for others.

4. It is a developing science.
There is a virtually unlimited medical potential to embryonic stem cell applications. These cells can activate to become any other type of cell for the body. Future technologies may use these cells to create new organs, provide cures for difficult diseases, and even provide hope for those suffering from genetic disorders.

List of the Embryonic Stem Cell Research Cons

1. They offer a low rate of success.
Treatments with embryonic stem cells have offered discouraging results in most applications. Trials have created tumors and unstable genetics. The cells often fail to activate as intended, which makes it difficult for treatments to be effective over a long course of treatment.

2. Only a person’s embryonic stem cells have high rates of success.
As with any other transplant, there is a risk of rejection to consider with embryonic stem cell therapies. If cord blood is stored for an individual, their own stem cells could provide a foundation for medical treatments. If that option is not available, then there is no guarantee of compatibility for this type of treatment right now.

3. It takes time for research opportunities to become viable.
Embryonic stem cells require several months of preparation, using current technologies, to become viable for research purposes. When dealing with severe diseases or conditions, patients may not have enough time to wait for their own stem cells to be prepared. Even if they do have the time, they may not be able to afford it because of the high clinical costs of this preparation. The cost of a cultured stem cell treatment can be $17,000 or higher.

4. It is a restricted research process.
Global funding for embryonic stem cell research has topped $1 billion since this research option first started. Funding in the United States, however, has been banned from government support since 1996. No new embryonic stem cell lines have been authorized for U.S. research since then. With these restrictions in place, finding new medical breakthroughs becomes even more difficult to achieve.

5. Embryos do meet a definition of life.
An embryo has a capacity for growth. It develops a functional activity over time. The cells within an embryo reproduce themselves. There are changes that happen to an embryo’s cells before death. Although there are ways to create embryonic stem cell lines for research that don’t involve embryo destruction, those cultured methods are quite costly. That is why embryo destruction is often the preferred method, which is why this debate can be controversial for so many.

These embryonic stem cell research pros and cons suggest that there is some common ground to be found, no matter what one’s definition of life may be. Once found, the process of research could lead to new medical treatments which may save many lives. To reach that common ground, we must all begin to work with one another and that process starts today.