Stem Cell Treatment - The Myths and Facts

by Garreth Myers

Currently, no area of research has generated as much interest, debate or controversy as the use of stem cell treatment as a cure for degenerative diseases. The field of stem cell research continues to be surrounded by myths and conflicting information regarding the origin of the stem cells, the type of research conducted and the ethical implications involved. Following are five of the most popular myths and corresponding facts about stem cell treatments

Myth No. 1

Stem cell research remains unregulated and has the potential to descend into an unethical minefield.

Fact No. 1

Stem cell research and treatment is restricted and regulated by a number of federal laws as per the guidelines issued by various organizations such as the National Institutes of Health, the FDA, the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) and more. The research community dealing with stem cell treatment takes its social and ethical responsibilities very seriously and attempts to face every new challenge in the most responsible manner. Research funded by national or state funding bodies follow a strict set of rules and regulations that are constantly being updated and revised to match the current state of this dynamic field of research.

Myth No. 2

Embryos are destroyed in order to create stem cell lines for research

Fact No. 2

Stem cells lines for treatment come from embryos that have been left over from an IVF (In vitro fertilization) procedure. When the egg and sperm of a couple are mixed together under laboratory conditions, fertilization takes place and the cells begin to divide to form a blastocyst. Several such blastocysts are created and some are implanted into the woman in the hope that they lead to a pregnancy. The rest of the blastocysts are stored for further use or discarded as per the couple’s instructions. There are a few cases where the embryos are donated to another couple for adoption. Some couples choose to donate their frozen embryos towards stem cell research and treatment. Even embryos that show genetic mutations or possible birth defects that would have otherwise been discarded can be used for stem cell research. It is impossible to use cells from mature embryos or aborted fetuses.

Myth No. 3

There is no need for embryonic stem cells when adult stem cells are as useful.

Fact No. 3

Adult stem cells by their very nature are more specific or specialized. They are connected to cells from their tissue of origin. Embyronic stem cells on the other hand can be manipulated into any type of cell for the purpose of research or treatment. The fallacy that adult stem cells can treat more than seventy diseases is just that – a fallacy. There is no conclusive proof regarding this claim and much of the related research has been discredited as non-scientific or uncorroborated.

Myth No. 4

Stem cell treatment results in cloning.

Fact No. 4

According to the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research (CAMR) there is a huge difference between cloning for reproductive purposes and therapeutic cloning. Reproductive cloning is banned whereas therapeutic cloning involves the growth of stem cells to treat a number of diseases. Therapeutic cloning only produces stem cells and never babies. The line between the two types of cloning lies in the process of implantation. If implantation does not take place, cloning remains non-reproductive.

Myth No. 5

Most religions are against stem cell research and treatment

Fact No. 5

While there are some religions that do oppose this type of research, most believe that stem cell treatments are decidedly pro-life and should be encouraged. Most of the opposition to stem cell research, religious opposition included, owes to popular misconceptions and misinformation.



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