Despite all the scientific and philosophical problems associated with stem cell research, it is vitally important. It could hold the key to curing many chronic and debilitating diseases which bring untold suffering, and cost the country billions a year in healthcare. Every new discovery in medicine has been fought when it first appeared, but has become accepted as people see the benefits, e.g. organ transplantation which is now an everyday occurrence. Stem cells will go the same way, and acceptance will be boosted as soon as new therapies emerge. The United States is falling behind the rest of the world because of the Bush administrationĘs restrictions on federal funding, and these need to be overturned immediately.
To get around the philosophical objections to using ES, many researchers are looking into using adult stem cells therapeutically (The Future, 2005, A12). These cells reside in most parts of the body, and are pluripotent, though not omnipotent: that is, they have a restricted number of cell types they can differentiate into. They are in situ repair cells, usually found in areas where repairs are frequently needed. Bone marrow transplants are the hallmark here, because there are many hemopoietic stem cells in bone marrow, producing a continuous supply of relatively short-lived blood cells for the body and producing bone cells and adipocytes. Reviews are mixed on just how potent adult stem cells are, with some scientists holding the view that they can only differentiate cells within a narrow subset, i.e. they are already partially differentiated, and others presenting preliminary evidence that they can be regressed to a more primitive stage, and then have higher potential to differentiate into a wider range of cells (A15). For instance, some scientists have observed the capacity of adult hemopoietic stem cells to repair heart tissue damaged by heart attacks, but others claim that there is no evidence that the stem cells actually have any ef