The details of clinical research generally dwell in obscurity from all but those involved in the actual research. Indeed, in recent memory, few scientific issues have raised more controversy among the American public than embryonic stem cell research. This contentious topic came to a head recently when the U.S. Court of Appeals decided to repeal—for the time being, at least—a ban on Obama’s expansion of embryonic stem cell research. As researchers resumed their work, the debate continued regarding whether embryonic stem cells should be used at all. We feel strongly that stem cell research—embryonic and otherwise—is extremely important if we hope to cure diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Unbeknownst to many opponents of embryonic stem cell research, the embryos used by these scientists in their research would otherwise be discarded, were they not put to scientific use. It then seems only reasonable that such excess embryos should be employed in research that has the potential to cure serious diseases. Moreover, because the in-vitro fertilization attempts that result in excess embryos are considered a last resort for women, the discarding of embryos happens on a much more minute scale than opponents assume. Although a long-term acceptance of stem cell technology has yet to crystallize, the temporary repeal of the ban on embryonic stem cell research represents a step in the right direction toward expansion of this promising field of medical science.
The research that could be conducted on these unwanted embryos and the embryonic stem cells that compose them is necessary for finding cures to debilitating diseases such as heart disease, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s as quickly as possible. The reality of the present situation is that the number of people affected by these diseases increases dramatically every year. These embryonic stem cells have the miraculous capacity to differentiate into almost any kind of cell, evolving into hearts for victims of heart disease or new nerve and brain cells for patients suffering from Parkinson’s. For this reason, they can aid research in ways that adult stem cells cannot. If politicians were to halt stem cell research in its present nascent stage, we would be forsaking one of the brightest opportunities to improve our country’s quality of life that the medical community has seen for decades.
In spite of the potential benefits to this field, opponents persist in their efforts to uphold the decision to ban embryonic stem cell research. Politicians, activists, and concerned citizens, however, should be wary of over-politicizing their opposition, as in doing so they run the risk of falsely representing the facts about embryonic stem cell research and truly doing a disservice to American public health. Although opponents are certainly entitled to their opinions about the morality of using stem cells, they should not mix politics with their beliefs.
Embryonic stem cells provide great opportunity for scientific research at very little cost. As such, we hope that the ban on embryonic stem cell research is permanently lifted.