Embryonic stem cells and the embryonic stem cell controversy are two of the most contentious and hotly debated ethical issues today. The use of embryonic stem cells, which are taken from a very early stage human embryo, is advocated by many in the scientific community. However, others believe that the use of cells from an embryo that could potentially become a human being is immoral, and that we should not continue to research into their uses.
Other types of stem cells, including fetal and adult stem cells have not escaped collateral damage from the embryonic stem cell controversy. These cells are not pluripotent (able to differentiate themselves into any kind of human cell), instead they are capable of differentiating themselves into many but not all types of cells.
Many opponents of the use of embryonic stem cells assert that adult stem cells derived from the blood inside the umbilical cord have been able to produce more promising results than embryonic stem cells in recent years. Whether or not this is due to the adult stem cells truly being a more promising cell type or because the use of embryonic stem cells in research has been heavily regulated for many years is up for debate. Feel free to discuss that in the comments below, by the way.
In the end, research into the use of stem cells centers around their use in regeneration and treatment of injuries like spinal cord severance and amputations. Some lizards are capable of a biological process where they reproduce an amputated limb or even a section of a tail that has been removed. The fact that lizards can regrow their tails is especially encouraging to me, because it means that there is a process in nature by which an animal is able to regrow a section of their spine. Humans right now are unable to regrow a severed section of their spinal cord, but researchers believe that they can treat this previously irreparable damage with the use of stem cells. Hopefully, a middle ground can be reached where the ethical and moral issues of the use of stem cells can be balanced with scientists’ desire to push forward in their research and discover new treatments for spinal cord trauma.