Stem cells are the newest "hot" topic in biological research. Very few other ongoing areas of research have been the focus of numerous articles, Presidential and Congressional scrutiny, and numerous ethical debates played out in the national media. This ongoing focus on stem cells is due in part to their amazing potential and in part to the controversial nature of one type of stem cell—the embryonic stem cell. The key question that is being dealt with is the issue of Federal funding for research with embryonic stem cells; the underlying issues of this simple question cause strong opinions and necessitate serious ethical considerations.
This study is intended to shape a personal position on the subject of Federal funding for embryonic stem cell research and a critique of the current status of such funding. However, outlining a position on this subject requires a background on all types of stem cells. In particular, some idea of the nature of various types of stem cells and the potential and realized uses of stem cells is necessary. Before outlining a personal position, an overview of the spectrum of positions and the evolution of the stem cell debate will also be required. Thus, the majority of this paper will outline the nature of stem cells, a history of the ongoing embryonic stem cell debate, and current policy regarding stem cell research. My personal position will then be juxtaposed alongside supporting and opposing opinions on the matter of Federal funding of embryonic stem cells.
Background: What are Stem Cells?
Stem cells are a pluripotent cell type, able to differentiate into multiple cell types. There are many kinds of stem cells in the human body, though some are more different...
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Pittenger, M. et. al. "Multilineage Potential of Adult Human Mesenchymal Stem Cells." Science. Apr. 2, 1999. 284, 143-146.
Couzin, J. "The promise and peril of stem cell research." U.S. News & World Report. May 31, 1999.
Wadman, M. "Ethicists urge funding for extraction of embryo cells." Nature. May 27, 1999. 399, 292.
Wadman, M. "Protestors seek US ban on embryo stem-cell work." Nature. July 8, 1999. 400, 96.
As quoted in Wadman, M. "White House cool on obtaining human embryonic stem cells." Nature. 400, 301.
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