The cure to HIV might just be around the corner, or probably not. Stem cell therapy, the potential cure against the Human immunodeficiency virus, the virus that is the cause of the dreaded AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), is creating a buzz around the world for having the potential to treat certain demoralizing diseases such as cancer, type 1 diabetes mellitus, Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, Celiac disease, cardiac failure, muscle damage and neurological disorders. In fact, a cure for HIV using this have been documented in Germany when the so-called Berlin Patient got stem cells in 2007 from a donor who was genetically resistant to the virus that caused AIDS.
But these developments face a bleak future due to moralists' apprehension based of ethical and religious concerns.
Some states even formulated hampering limitations in executing this treatment by introducing laws under conscience clause.
Weird as it may be, even in the modern era, many people still fear ghosts and other supernatural beings.
This fear may be attribute for not having full understanding about the matter. In the same manner, stem cell therapy may have been around for decades but narrow-minded people immediately associates the procedure with abortion. Such may be true in the past when embryonic stem cells that are used, and destroy the embryos in the process. Moral dilemma arises when a society views the status of an embryo as essential and must not be toyed with.
Traditionally, a huge mass of cells are extracted from an embryo at its blastocyst stage. This is the stage when the embryo has divided into a hundred cells more or less. When extraction is done at this stage, the embryo dies. After all, science magazine Nature, admitted that the world of a human being is shaped 24 hours after conception and that the embryo is a young member of the human race, and is therefore entitled to life, liberty and respect.
But a new method have been devised by extracting cells from an embryo in the 8 to 10-cell stage, and cultivating some of those cells into stem cell lines, minus the supposed abortion that has to go with it. Apart from this new method, there is also another source for stem cell which is the adult stem cell, which does not result into any form of abortion.
Adult stem cells are reportedly found in the human body, such as the brain, skin, heart, liver, teeth, skeletal muscle, testes, bone marrow, blood vessels, peripheral blood, gut, and ovarian epithelium. Extracting these cells as in the Berlin Patient case, is readily available from a human donor or from the patient itself.
As both stem cell procedures already overtook the abortion issue, one issue that still lingers is that will these procedures be used into a full blown human cloning program? Preserving life through stem cell research is important, but human cloning is an entirely different matter. Must stem cell research continue then? only if it saves the fickle lifespan of humankind without the need to expend the life of an unborn one.
- Singec I, Jandial R, Crain A, Nikkhah G, Snyder EY (2007). "The leading edge of stem cell therapeutics"
- Journal of Medical Ethics (April 1999)