Stem Cell Research

Since the stem cell was first isolated in the 1980s, is when the controversy began about its role in modern medicine. The main reason is there are deep seeded divisions between the different sides in the debate. At the heart of the issue, was if aborted fetuses should be used in the process to create clones of cells, organs or people. This has fueled the debate within society as to what is considered to be moral and ethical. A good example of this can be seen with possible concerns about how the embryos (from aborted fetuses) could be deliberately destroyed in some labs. For right to life supporters, this has stoked fears about how the process is creating another avenue of unethically terminating life. Whereas many proponents of stem cell research will argue that the entire process is designed to prevent these kinds of incidents. (Plunkett, 2007) to show how proponents of stem cell research are correct requires comparing the viewpoints of both sides. This will be accomplished by looking at the press coverage, the use of Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells and how new techniques can avoid ethical debates. Together, these different elements will offer specific insights as to how the use of stem cells is an ethical practice that does not intentionally destroy embryos.

Press Coverage

The press coverage of stem cells is receiving mixed reviews depending upon the source. What is happening is various authors, publications or news broadcasts will focus on different areas of interest (i.e. liberal and conservative). This is based on each entity tailoring content that is entertaining for their audience. When any kind of news is received, all organizations will take the information and they will tailor it towards the primary demographic of viewers, web traffic or readers. The way that this occurs is through a process known as journalistic reframing. This is when journalists will take specific scientific information and they will refit it into the larger context of the story. The basic idea is to use these facts to sway the viewpoints of the audience. This is when the writer will create content that will agree with audience and challenge their thinking. (Snyder, 2009, pp. 64 -- 68)

In the case of stem cells, the different kinds of coverage are based upon scientific evidence that is being released in journals and working papers. When a news organization is researching the topic they must find points that will keep everyone entertained. The best way that this can be accomplished is by taking some kind of irrelevant fact about stem cells and then combining it with other areas. (Snyder, 2009, pp. 64 -- 68)

For example, one journalist (who is in favor of using of stem cells) could take a scientific study to show how the process is safe and effective. This is accomplished by using the different kinds of research and illustrating how they are helping to provide potential treatments for a number of conditions. A few of the most notable include: spinal cord injuries, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease and cancer. This is supposed to sway the views of audience by helping them to see how stem cell research could provide effective remedies. Over the course of time, this kind of coverage will sway the opinions of the audience. This is when they will support actions that will encourage scientists to continue with this research in the future. (Snyder, 2009, pp. 64 -- 68)

While on the other side of spectrum, are journalists who are considered to be pro-life and are against stem cell research. When any kind of scientific study is conducted, is the point that they will use the research to highlight the potential risks of what may be happening. Such as: stating how the government is supporting stem cell research using live embryos. Then, adding that during all scientific experiments is when everyone will inadvertently destroy something during their project. In the case of live embryos, scientists could intentionally destroy some when conducting research. It is at this point that the journalist will argue that stem cell research is a violation of basic morals (by allowing human life to be destroyed). This angers supporters to the point that they are willing to protest and speak out against what is happening. When in reality the practice will occur in one way or another based on the nature of the research. (Snyder, 2009, pp. 64 -- 68)

Evidence of this can be seen by looking no further than in-vitro fertilization clinics. These are locations where couples will go who are trying to conceive a child and are having difficulty of their own. The basic approach is to take the egg of the woman and artificially inseminate it with a donor sperm or that of the husband. However, during the process is when there will be a number of sperm cells and embryos destroyed. This is because the odds of seeing successful conception with this procedure have low success rates of 20%. As a result, the majority of embryos and sperm are destroyed most of the time with this procedure. (Pence, 2007, pp. 71 -- 73) (Snyder, 2009, pp. 64 -- 68)

This is significant, because it is showing how the coverage of stem cells is often changed based upon the organization and the audience that they are reaching out to. During the process of talking about the issues is when journalists will take scientific facts and reframe it. This is when they will cite the information from these studies to illustrate their point.

In the case of pro-life supporters, they are taking this approach to illustrate their arguments and stir emotions about the possible destruction of human life. When in reality, embryos are destroyed every day during in-vitro fertilization. The difference is that there is no coverage of this practice (based on the fact that it is widely accepted). As a result, this is an indication that the use of the press is helping to fuel anger about the potential ethical challenges of stem cell research. While the realization is that scientists are not attempting to intentionally destroy embryos. Instead, any kind of destruction will be avoided as much as possible to ensure the accuracy of the study. This means that many of the more conservative journalists are using different scientific facts to highlight possible ethical issues that are non-existent. (Snyder, 2009, pp. 64 -- 68)

The use of Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells

Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSC) are taking a different approach. What is happening is a scientific breakthrough occurred in 2006 when scientists discovered that stem cells can come from pluripotent cell (a.k.a. pluripotent stem cell). These kinds of cells are from typical adult organs such as the heart or liver. The only difference is that the material cannot be used to produce human life. This means that these kinds of cells have the same types of properties as embryos and can be utilized for similar kinds of purposes. (Yidrim, 2011, pp. 11 -- 17)

As a result, the use of this technique is changing the face of research and modern medicine. This is because the process of replication was often limited to one of several approaches to include: embryotic and adult stem cells. An embryotic stem cell is when there is an emphasis on extracting an embryo 14 to 15 days after fertilization. While adult stem cells, are when scientists are taking from other cells that are dividing (such as tissue). During this process is when the cell can be used to create a vital organ part (but not life). This is similar to iPSC, which is focused on the same kind of areas. The only difference is that iPSC is a newer technique that is showing more promise in comparison with the extraction of adult stem cells. These different elements are important, because they are highlighting how there are number of approaches that are used in the process of conducting research. (Yidrim, 2011, pp. 11 -- 17)

However, the technique that is showing the most promise (outside of embryotic research) is iPSC. The reason why is scientists, are finding that this has similar characteristics to embryos. While at the same time, they have the flexibility to adapt to a variety of situations. Evidence of this can be seen with observations from Yidrim (2011). He observed, "IPSCs offer disease and patent specific skills with the knowledge and clinical history of the donor. They can be made with cells taken from all ages and conditions (such as chronic disease in elder patients). The techniques used to generate iPSCs can affect the efficiency of reprograming and the quality of the resultant iPSC. The reprograming methods can be divided into several classes according to their mode of integration of genetic material into the host genome or those of non-integrative approaches." (Yidrim, 2011, pp. 11 -- 17) This is significant in showing how iPSCs has the ability to change the focus of stem cell research.

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