What are stem cells? Why have they been in the news recently? Discuss.

Stem cells are special types of cells that have ability to grow into any kind of tissue. They can be used to grow into heart, skin, liver, blood or any other kind of tissue. These cells are taken from the patient’s own body—from his bone marrow. If it is a newly born child, placenta cells are taken. Such stem cells can also be produced from embryos or from umbilical cord blood.

Their ability to grow into required types of tissue make them useful to cure many diseases. They can repair the damaged part of our body. Apart from this, they can be preserved for years by keeping them in liquid nitrogen at -270 degree Celsius and can be used for the treatment of the person when he gets any defect in his body.

But a new controversy has arisen with the concept of stem cells. A group of politicians and ethics advocates ask whether they are really embryo cells and are ethically justified to replace them. However, the debate is over the embryo stem cells. They favour the right to life of the embryonic fertilised cells. On the other hand, the scientists show the benefits and potential utility of these cells to cure human diseases. More than 45 disorders can be treated with the stem cells.

Britain has favoured research in stem cells while America allows only research over the embryo cells and not their use. India is also conducting research in this field. Apart from this ethical debate, these researchers have their own technical problems yet to be solved.


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