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Tyler Rapp
Professor Malcolm Campbell
English 1103
October 5, 2015
Stem Cells: A Promising Future or a Recipe for Disaster?
Introduction/Overview
I will be delving into the unique and interesting realm of stem cells. Basically, stem cells
are a broad range of entities that possess many potential qualities, such as many diseases and
dilapidating illnesses because of their amazing ability to differentiate into essentially any cell in
the human body. With stem cells, especially those of a special type called embryonic stem cells
(which are derived out of a petri dish from mixed sperm and egg), a lot of controversy rises. For
my topic in the Extended Inquiry Project, I will discuss the science and ethics of stem cells in
relation to a more specific and unheard of possibility stem cells may have: the ability to stop or
reverse the process of aging.
According to the National Institutes of Health, stem cells potentially have the ability to
replace cells from conditions such as macular degeneration, spinal cord injury, stroke, burns,
heart diseases, diabetes, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. Ultimately, anything that results
from a loss of cells, stem cells could possibly be able to fix it because of the simple capability to
shift into other types of cells. Each year, millions upon millions of people suffer or die from
these issues. For example, according the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),
611,105 people died from heart disease in the United States in 2013 (which was the leading
cause of death), along with hundreds of thousands of other individuals that passed away via
issues that stem cells may have the ability of correcting. However, as aforementioned, there is

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immense controversy in either continuing to research with stem cells or cease it altogether
because of ethical concerns. The conflict arises from the fact that stem cell scientists typically
prefer embryonic stem cell lines because of their increased skill to differentiate into any bodily
cell (unlike somaticor bodily/adultstem cells that have limited differentiation skills because
of their specificity of region in the human body, as well as their difficulty to obtain because of
their rarity throughout a humans body).
Moreover, in regards to aging, our bodiesas humanshave a finite age. Eventually,
even if one remains as healthy and ill-free as possible, ones production of stem cells will morph
into specific types of cells that cannot sustain cell division forever. In addition, every time cells
divide, the nuclear and mitochondrial DNA encased within the cell grows shorter and shorter
with each division (according to the DNA Damaging Theory of Aging, which is the predominant
scientific theory that I will also be focusing on in this project). Since this occurs, DNA loses a
little bit of genes each time a cell divides that invokes illnesses, hair loss, and the impending loss
of life the older and older one gets. With this being said, stem cells scientists believe that, with
enough research and time, they can come up with a method to immortalize cells in the body as
well as cease the impending shortening of DNA with the implantation of stem cells in humans.
For example, in Japanaccording to sciencealert.comscientists have successfully reversed the
aging of a cell line. By using stem cell manipulation, the scientists managed to make a 97-yearold cell line back to essentially new again. With experiments like this, many stem cell scientists
assert that further research would lead to the overall reversal/stoppage of aging in all human
cells.
Furthermore, stem cell research revolves around a few prime stakeholders: stem cell
scientists, religious advocates, and politicians. Each of these groups has a huge say-so in the

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advancement of stem cells in society and how far they can go. (It is vital to note that the
viewpoints discussed in this project are stereotypical, predominant points of view that may not
be the same for every individual within a given group.) Stem cell scientists are obviously for the
progression, funding, and use of stem cells in society. Normally, they see the ways that stem cells
could benefit the world by curing many issues in the medical field and disregard the ethical side
of view. Many religious foundations, on the other hand, typically disagree with the idea of using
stem cells in medicine. Most of the core religions especially pose a problem with using
embryonic stem cells because the sperm and egg are viewed as a possible human life (with the
use of embryonic stem cells analogous to abortion, in a way). For example, according to
americancaholic.com, The Catholic Church is against embryonic stem-cell research because it
involves the destruction of human embryos. Pope John Paul II said embryonic stem-cell research
is related to abortion, euthanasia, and other attacks on innocent life. But, some of these religions
are often supportive of the research of somatic stem cells. Last, politicians are typically divided
depending on the party. Predominantly, conservatives are not for the use of stem cells nor the
funding of stem cell research by the government; on the contrary, liberals are usually for the use
of stem cellsincluding embryonic stem cellsand the funding of the research from national
aid. The heads of these two parties also roughly support the constituents of each party (also
known as the general public) in America.
For this topic, I have looked into several sources (including the National Institutes of
Health, Harvard Stem Cell Institute, and other various science sources) for the scientific
component of this project. For religious and other activist groups, I have visited their respected
websites, such as americancatholic.org, for their posted views on stem cellsespecially that of
embryonic stem cells. Additionally, I plan to use government websites and the National Institutes

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of Health website to understand the ways the law interprets the use of stem cells, and if it is
liable to fund such research. Additionally, I plan to use The Postmortala fictional book about a
society that never ages that I will further discuss laterand other scientific sources to discover
the scientific means behind aging in regards to stem cells, and to see what the ethical and moral
concerns are with having a society that is ageless.

Initial Inquiry Question(s)


During the duration of the Extended Inquiry Project, I will attempt to answer many
questions, including, what are the ethics behind using stem cells for this manner, and would the
general public be for or against such a thing? Additionally, how could stem cells be modified to
stop the aging of humans, and what are the dilemmas surrounding this?

My Interest in this Topic


My interest in stem cells was ignited in eighth grade when I was assigned a topic on stem
cells for a research paper. Since then, my interest in them has grown significantly. In eleventh
grade, I did another research paper on stem cells that basically elaborated on my previous
research: those involved in stem cells and the basic science behind it. However, I would love to
continue this topic on aging, another interesting segment of stem cells that is a lot more complex
and involved. This particular interest of aging arose from a reading I did over the summerThe
Postmortalthat revolved around a futuristic society that had the opportunity to take the cure
that ceased ones aging. At whatever age you took the cure, you remained that age for eternity.
As a result of completing two papers beforehand, I know a good amount about the basics
of stem cells: what they can do, what diseases they are capable of helping, what groups of
people are for and against it, and more. However, I currently do not know enough about the

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technical aspects of stem cells and their application to understand how they are involved with
aging, which is what I am excited to learn about during this project. In addition, I hope to
formulate my own educated opinion on the matter after concluding this essay. Currently, I am
torn on the ways I view the use of embryonic stem cells. In one respect, the embryos are grown
in a petri dish and are incapable of producing a fetus because of the unlivable conditions. On the
other hand, however, I understand the viewpoint of growing humans and how many religious
grounds are not okay with this action.

Next Steps
Next in the process, I plan to visit various websites and other sourcessuch as the
National Institute of Health, Harvard Stem Cell Institute, The New York Times, and moreto
delve into the topic further to understand the ins-and-outs of the science behind stem cell
research, as well as the various opinions on the matter. In addition, I hope to understand how
ceasing aging in humans could be accomplished by the use of stem cells. Last, I plan to broaden
my horizons and examine the ways that finding the cure for aging would affect society and
how the mass public would react to such a scenario.