What is the big controversy in stem cell research?


Quick Answer

The largest controversy in stem-cell research is the use of human embryos, which brings up a range of issues related to beliefs around contraception, abortion and in vitro fertilization. Other controversial aspects of stem-cell research include cloning and ethical issues concerning the testing of human stem cells on other animals.

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Full Answer

Scientists obtain embryonic stems cells by taking the inner cell mass from fertilized eggs. Women and couples seeking treatment for infertility donate excess artificially fertilized eggs that they do not need; however, some feel that embryos have legal and moral rights as persons, as they believe that human life begins at the moment of conception.

President George W. Bush restricted the funding of embryonic stem-cell research in 2001, whereas other states increased stem cell funding in reaction. The controversy died down after 2006, following the development of stem cells produced from other adults cells, such as skin cells. Initially, some researchers questioned whether these cells worked as well as embryonic stem cells, but in 2015 a new study put to rest most doubts that non-embryonic stem cells are not usable.

Scientists can create new cloned cells from stem cells, which leads to controversy among those who feel all human reproductive cloning is dangerous and may fail. Ethical concerns also surround the testing of stem cells on animals, which creates chimeras. The National Academies’ guidelines prohibit the introduction of human stem cells in other primates, such as monkeys and apes, but researchers do test stem cells on mice and other animals.

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