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Stem Cell Research

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Stem cells are cells that can form into any type of cell, they are found in bone marrow, embryos, fetuses, and blood from the umbilical cord. Early in development, a human embryo is made up of a hollow ball of cells called a “blastocyst”. Blastocyst cells divide and eventually develop into all of the tissues and organs of a human being, a process called “differentiation”. Embryonic stem cells can be grown in the laboratory from blastocysts and made to differentiate into nerve, liver, muscle, blood, and other cells. Scientists hope to control the differentiation of the cells to replace cells in diseased organs in human beings. Embryonic stem cells can also be used to test the effects of new drugs without harming animals or people.

In adult human beings, stem cells are found in many places in the body, including the skin, liver, bone marrow, and muscles. In the organs, stem cells remain inactive until they are needed. The stem cells supply each organ with cells needed to replace damaged or dead cells. Bone marrow stem cells divide to produce more stem cells, additional cells called “precursor cells”, and all of the different cells that make up the blood and immune system. Precursor cells have the ability to form many different types of cells, but they cannot produce more stem cells. Scientists can isolate bone marrow stem cells to use as donor cells in transplants. Adult stem cells, however, are rare and more difficult to detect and isolate. The discovery and isolation of embryonic stem cells has led to debate over whether it is right to use cells taken from human embryos for research. People have expressed concern about using human embryos and collecting some of their cells.

Some people consider embryos already to be human beings. The embryos are destroyed in the process of isolating the stem cells. Once removed from an embryo, stem cells alone cannot form another embryo or develop into a human being. Many people consider it wrong to destroy human embryos, but other people believe that the potential medical benefits of stem cells justify their use. Scientists have found that stem cells can grow into 210 types of cells in the human body. Scientists believe that these cells can be used to cure many diseases that they have tried to find a cure for.
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