Background on Somatic Stem Cell Research Somatic stem cells ...

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Dec 12, 2012 (4 years and 7 months ago)

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Background on Somatic Stem Cell Research


Somatic stem cell
s
, also known as adult stem cell
s
,
are cells that are regenerated during
cell division in order to restore damaged tissues and replace dead cells.
The research of somatic
stem cell
s

began in 2001, when stem cells from a male mice’s bone marrow were injected into a
female’s bone marrow, and after eleven months, the stem cells were found in all organs and
tissues, proving Alexei Terskikh’s hypothesis that all stem cells in a body activ
ate the same
genes.
The research on stem cells is focused on generating all cells and possibly regenerating an
organ just from a few somatic stem cells. Unlike embryonic stem cells, somatic s
tem cells are
from adult tissues

and not from human embryos.
Besi
des tissues, they can also be located in the
umbilical cord, resulting in the creation of many
cord blood banks. There are currently 521 cord
blood banks within 97 countries. To store umbilical cords, most private owned banks

charge
approximately $2,000
-

$
3
,000
.

The usage of somatic stem cells has already successfully bee
n
used in

many cases, including

cases dealing with
cardiac infraction
, Crohn’s disease and
thalassemia
. Stem
cells, as scientists believe, have

the potential to heal an
d alleviate

diseases
that
current
ly have

no cure
,

such as diabetes. Adult stem cell research has been able treat more than
73 medical conditions
,

while embryonic stem cells still have not been able to provide any
successful

treatments.
Adult stem cells, however, a
re less versa
tile; they cannot turn into all other
tissues. Also, in labs, somatic stem cells cannot grow indefinitely.
Since somatic stem cells do
not require the killing of an unborn child, a poll in 2001 shows that 70% of the people support
adult stem cell research; whereas, for embryonic stem cell, only 24% of the people supported it.
Asian countries, such as Japan and
South Korea, have been the main investors in somatic stem
cell research.
In 2001, the United States authorized $30 million to adult stem c
ell research
because it was
ethically non
-
controversial.

In 2011, the Vatican also announced its support for
adult ste
m cell research by donating $1 million to somatic stem cell research.

Somatic stem cell
research, however, is controversial because it is a form
of genetic engineering, and it
raises
issues as to whether funding for embryonic stem cell research should sti
ll continue when adult
stem cell
s have

been proven to be more effective and less ethically controversial.
Although
somatic stem cell technology is very effective, it is very costly; therefore, causing disagreement
with how this form of technology should be

expanded and made available to people of all
countries.

UN Involvement


In 2003,
a

decision on cloning was p
ostponed to 22005; however, the General Assembly
committee
was split on their decision on Costa Rica’s resolution that banned all forms of cloning
which included stem cell research.
In 2005, the General Assembly adopted the

A/RES/59/180,
United Nations Declaration on Human Cloning which prohibited state members from
carrying
out research on therapeutic cloning and somatic cell nuclear transfer. Besid
es the General
Assembly, the World Health Organization and the Council of Europe’s Convention on

Human
Right and Biomedicine have

also banned research on stem cells
; however, this excludes somatic
stem cell research
.
Since the adoption of this declaration,

the topic has been untouched by the
United Nations. Other countries and non
-
governmental organizations, however, have taken some
action in order to further their research on somatic stem cell research. In 2010, United Kingdom
started a petition in support

of embryonic stem cell research which also included the subject of
somatic cell nuclear transfer. Somatic s
tem cells as a whole, however, were

not included in the
petition because it is
already accepted since it
does not require the death of an embryo in order to
carry out the procedure. Currently, different non
-
governmental organizations such as EuropaBio
have been focusing on whether adult stem cells have the ability to replace embryonic stem cells
because
adult

stem cells are hard to locate
.
Another non
-
governmental organization is ALS
Association which is the largest privately
-
funded research that focuses on adult stem cells’
ability to fight Lou Gehrig’s disease. Also, some religious institutes and Catholic un
iversities are
trying to find different ways of using somatic stem cells to treat diseases because some ethical
conflicts still remain in the realm of somatic stem cell research.

Bloc Positions

Asia:

Biotechnology is prospering in Asian countries. Japan,

South Korea, India and Singapore
are all pouring in money to fund research on somatic stem cell research. Pharmaceutical
companies in Asia are also trying
to develop treatments. There is

guidance and regulation

on
stem
-
cell research; therefore
,

India’s st
em cell banking business

is flourishing. South Korea is

the leader in stem cell research
.


Africa

South Africa’s stem cell bank

opened

in 2004

and

was the first in the country. In major
ity
of the continent
, th
erapeutic cloning is authorized
, so they do app
rove of somatic stem cell
research.

Europ
e

Belgium, like most African nations, disapproves of reproductive cloning, but do
es

approve
of stem cell research. A
lthough
France
prohibits reproductive cloning,
they
allowed a 5
year

trial of

stem cell research,
which

was later extended. In Germany, there are a lot of
regulations

on both embryonic and somatic stem cell
; however, stem
cell research does take
place. The m
ajority of Europe is against reproductive cloning; however, research on
both
reproductive and so
matic
stem cells does occur. UK is Europe’s leader in stem cell research.

Middle East
:

Reproductive cloning is banned, but therapeutic cloning is still being researched in
Israel. In Saudi Arabia, religious officials banned the usage of embryos for resear
ch; however,
the government is interested in biotechnology.

Islamic religion is in support of somatic stem cell;
therefore, majority of the Middle East are in support of somatic stem cell research.

North America
:

North American countries allow research on

stem cells; however, in Mexico
there are no formal regulations
. In Canada, creating human embryos are prohibited and in the
United States,
President
Obama ended the ban on stem cell research.

South America

In Brazil, creation of reproductive embryos for research purposes is allowed;
however, the embryo must be frozen for a minimum of three years first. This was later
challenged by the Catholic Church. Many countries in South America are Catholics so they
op
pose em
bryonic stem cell; however, they do

approve somatic stem cell

research because the
Vatican is also in support of somatic stem cell research
.

Questions to Consider

1.

Should funding for embryonic stem cell research be cut because it has been shown that

somatic stem cells have a higher success rate and less ethically controversial?

2.

In 2003 and 2005, the debate in the General Assembly was between whether to
completely ban cloning, including all forms of stem cell research, or to allow the States to
decid
e on their own policy on stem cell research. Should the UN allow States to decide or
continue banning research?

3.

Should there be certain regulations and standards when doing stem cell research, which
includes both embryonic and somatic stem cell research? I
f there should be regulations,
should it be an international standard that everyone is required to follow, or should there
be regional standards? If there should be no regulations and standards how do you ensure
that research is carried out ethically?

4.

Many

countries supported, funded, and created banks for storing umbilical cords;
however, there are no regulations in place currently, so what regulations should be placed
to ensure that they are being stored properly and distributed properly?

5.

Also because pr
ivate banks charge an average of $2500 for an umbilical cord to be
stored, many people will not be able to take advantage of this form of technology. Should
this opportunity just be given to those who can afford it or should this opportunity be
given to pe
ople who are in the most needs, similar to how organ donations work? Has
your country implemented any regulations to facilitate the distribution of this form of
technology?

Works Referenced

http://www.unep.ch/regionalseas/regions/ropme/ropint.htm

http://www.lifenews.c
om/2011/06/20/vatican
-
puts
-
1
-
million
-
behind
-
adult
-
stem
-
cell
-
research/

http://stemcells.nih.gov/info/basics/basics4.asp

http://www.nature.com/scitable/content/embryonic
-
and
-
somatic
-
stem
-
cells
-
as
-
a
-
58394