Myths and Misconceptions of Stem Cell Research

In all of my past blog posts, I have discussed stem cell research and even the controversy surrounding it, but today I will be discussing several myths and misconceptions that society has involving stem cell research. Many times these myths and misconceptions arise because opposition groups are trying to persuade supporters that the practice is unethical.

One of the many misconceptions of stem cell research is that funded research is not performed ethically. California’s Stem Cell Agency is one of the institutes that are performing stem cell research that is government funded. The Stem Cell Agency takes ethical concerns in to consideration when performing research on stem cells, and adopts research standards similar to the National Institute of Health’s stem cell research program. The funded researchers at the agency must comply with regulations developed in accordance to national and international research standards for stem cell research. These regulations were actually one of the first sets of regulations involving stem cell research and are in accordance with the guidelines from the International Society for Stem Cell Research.

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Another one of the major misconceptions surrounding stem cell research is where the embryos are coming from that are used in embryonic stem cell research . Currently, the embryos being used in the research are four to five day old embryos left over from in vitro fertilization procedures. The leftover embryos that are left over after an in vitro fertilization procedure are stored in the clinic’s freezer that is designed to store the embryos. If the embryos are not donated to embryonic stem cell research, the embryos are usually destroyed.

Some embryos used in stem cell research are also from embryos that are not chosen for in vitro fertilization procedures because the embryos will have genetic defects such as cystic fibrosis or Tay Sachs disease. These genetic defects are discovered during routine genetic testing performed before the in vitro fertilization process. If the embryos were not donated to embryonic stem cell research, they would have been discarded and destroyed.

There is also an extensive consent program that is utilized to ensure that people who donate leftover embryos to the research process are fully aware of what embryonic stem cell research involves. Also under state, national, and international regulations, human embryonic stem cell lines cannot be created without the full consent of the donor.

The main myth with embryonic stem cell research is that the only way to conduct stem cell research is to destroy the embryo. There is actually a process that an embryonic stem cell research can use that preserves the embryo and does not destroy it. This method creates the stem cell lines by removing only one cell from the embryo and that one cell is used to create the cell line. The process of only removing one cell from the embryo is the same procedure utilized for embryonic genetic testing that is done in the normal in vitro fertilization process.

The final myth that I am going to disprove in this post is that stem cell research will eventually lead to a cloning process. This is impossible since every regulatory and advising programs involving stem cell research explicitly ban the use of stem cells for reproductive cloning. The National Academy of Sciences and the International Society for Stem Cell Research has even issued guidelines banning the cloning technique.

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It is very important to disprove the myths and misconceptions surrounding stem cell research especially since it is a highly debated topic in today’s society. If the wrong information is received by the government, the desperately needed funding for stem cell research can be eliminated.

6 thoughts on “Myths and Misconceptions of Stem Cell Research

  1. I have to say I didn’t even know about some of the misconceptions you covered!
    I never knew that actual human embryos (human cells) are used in the stem cell research. In the past, I just assumed that the research is using mainly embryos of other mammals that are genetically similar to human. Now that I think about it, it should be done using human cells since the main focus is on human genome and development.
    Also, about the first misconception, I have experienced the strict guidelines and protocols firsthand in research lab, so I can totally agree with it. Although the lab I’m working in is not about stem cell research, I’m not sure if it’s directly funded by the government, but I have told about many rules in lab practices that are mandated by the government and other institutions.

  2. In this day and age, there seems to be a lot of misconceptions surrounding many, if not all, scientific fields. It is important to clear up these misconceptions so that the public can be well informed about serious issues in today’s societies. While I didn’t know about all of the misconceptions you mentioned, I am sure that everyone has heard many of these myths in the past. I was especially interested in all of the ethical boards and regulatory groups you mentioned, because many people believe that stem cell research occurs without much guidance from such organizations. In the future, I think these groups should be more vocal in political dialogue surrounding stem cell research.

  3. I admittedly believed that many of these aforementioned myths were true. I did not know that embryos could be preserved while still extracting stem cells from it. It sounds like this method is not quite as efficient, but I am sure that this fact would turn many people who are opposed to stem cell research into supporters. I also did not know that most of the embryos that are used for stem cell research would be destroyed otherwise. When you put it that way, it almost seems like a waste not to use them for stem cell extraction. Clarifying these myths may lead to more support from the general public about stem cell research.

  4. Stem cell research is considered the new step to self-renewal with its ability to repair cell and tissues in the body. I support stem cell research due to the fact that it does not just stop the symptoms of a disease momentarily but the fact that it has the ability to completely renew organism to complete restoration reversing the diagnosis of the disease in the first place. I fully support this regenerative medicine approach and it does outweigh the ethical concern with embryonic stem cells in my opinion. From my knowledge, most stem cells have to potential to differentiate into 8 different types or similar to the other surrounding cells present in the tissue. For example, skin stem cells will make skin cells. The only special case where this does not happen is with the use of embryonic stem cells. These cells can be differentiated in to any type of cell or tissues and hence considered to be pluripotent. Embryos cannot develop into whole organisms without the presence of certain conditions hence they are not totipotent like the zygote which is formed at conception and implanted into the uterus. Stem cell research could possibly be the breakthrough for curing incurable diseases such as diabetes. In Trinidad and Tobago especially, diabetes is quite prevalent. There are over 117, 000 persons who are diagnosed with diabetes and I can see stem cell research helping citizens and improving quality of life for them by transplanting beta cells that produce insulin hence reversing diabetes forever. There is a future for stem cell research most definitely!

  5. this is very interesting! there are many persons who like myself have believed in these misconceptions. so I’m glad that this was cleared up so that individuals can become more educated on the topic of stem cells. this blog has definitely changed the views I had on stem cell research particularly on embryonic stem cell research. what stood out to me the most was the use of the IVF method is explained. I’m happy that the majority of these companies in this field of research actually use this method instead. and lastly, it was captivating to me that they make sure that consent is given before theses scientists go ahead to do further research with the individuals’ embryos and that if consent was not made then they dispose of it. thank you for sharing this in the blog.

  6. In my opinion, the medical applications of stem cells is of great importance and extremely valuable. These cells have the ability to specialize into several different cell types and as such has allowed for repair of tissues. These stem cells also have the capability to regenerate and replenish the source. Research has allowed for the discovery of how cells behave and what conditions or signals are needed to direct their behavior. This allows for the treatment of previously incurable diseases and shows the potential to a permanent cure. These include Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and even cancer and would provide individuals with an opportunity to live a better quality of life, and by extension, their families and society at large. The use of stem cells has been used to treat extensive burns by skin grafting, or repair blood systems by transplantation of stem cells into the blood of leukemia patients. There is also the ability to create brain cells to treat neurological disease, and the transplantation of beta cells into diabetic patients, leading to insulin production. The applications of stem cells are widely varied. This aspect of stem cell use must definitely be pursued in an attempt at the betterment of human life.

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