What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Stem Cell Research?

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There are many benefits of stem cell research for medicine and science, and the disadvantages are often social or cultural in nature. A number of groups are against stem cell research for ethical or religious reasons, especially when the research involves embryonic stem cells. Scientists believe stem cell research will lead to regenerative discoveries that could treat or cure diseases such as cancer.

The benefits of each type of stem cell vary, according to the Huntington’s Outreach Project for Education at Stanford. Embryonic cells are pluripotent, which means they can give rise to cells for any area of the body. Adult cells are multipotent, limiting the development of treatments and regeneration to areas of the body where adult stem cells can be harvested. Because adult stem cell use is limited and embryonic stem cell research is still controversial and illegal in some areas, overall developments are limited. The major disadvantage to embryonic stem cell research is that removing stem cells from an embryo causes the embryo to die.

According to NeoStem, research into adult stem cells has raised the number of areas where the cells are harvested. Stem cells that form blood have been taken from bone marrow and used in transplants for over four decades, and scientists are working on additional transplant and treatment mechanisms.