Stem Cell Research
In the late 1990s stem cell research was seen as a cure for many diseases. These stem cells were allowing the human body to repair itself, but with many setbacks, came as many breakthroughs. Our father’s heart muscles could be repaired with stem cells, as could the young lady with a spinal cord injury. The possibilities are endless. But with hope, comes doubt. Like Feynman states, ‘It is not unreasonable that we grapple with problems. Our responsibility is to do what we can, learn what we can, improve the solutions and pass them on” (Jacobus, 2017). This is exactly what stem cell research continues to do. Learn from what works and build from what is leaned.
The brain contains approximately 1,000 types of nerve cells (Brookshire, 2017), mostly formed during the fetal period. Nerve cells are formed in various places in the brain and during specific periods during development. Dopamine is a chemical in our brain that sends messages between brain cells. It plays a role in how we move, how we eat, how we learn, and even whether we are depressed. Parkinson’s disease is caused by the degeneration and death of dopamine-producing cells in the midbrain, which leads to severe motor difficulties (Brookshire, 2017). There is now hope that it will be possible to treat the disease by transplanting newly produced dopamine cells. Scientists have now created similar methods for production of cell types for other neurological disorders (Brookshire, 2017), such as ALS, MS and depression.
In The Allegory of the Cave, prisoners have lived chained to the wall of a dark cave their entire lives. Every day, these people in the caves watched shadows projected on a blank wall (Oshin, 2018). For them, these shadows are real and they shape their entire reality. Now picture that one of the prisoners leave the cave and walks outside into the sunshine. For the first time in his life, he is seeing the sunshine and light. He can now finally see the “true” forms, shapes and reality of the shadows he thought were real. In this Allegory, Socrates asks, what would he think of his friends back in the cave? He would probably feel sorry for them and their failure to see what he sees. But, if he went back to the cave and told them about what he saw, they would probably laugh at him and think he was crazy. Plato’s Allegory of the Cave explores the tension between the imagined reality that we think is “real” (shadows) versus the reality that is the “truth” (outside the cave), which is similar to a person with mental illness (Jacobus, 2017).
Mental illness is often hidden inside an individual and what is ‘real’ is not always evident. Plato suggests that humans are largely bound by fundamental limitations in the way we see the world (Oshin, 2018). What we perceive as truth is merely a facsimile—not altogether false, but a clouded and incomplete representation of reality (Oshin, 2018). The ideas explained by Pluto are closely connected with that of mental illness. We are not necessary able to see what mental illness is and how it looks like we can with someone’s cough or skin cancer.
Mental illness problems are not associated with being lazy or weak, but natural factors such as genes, physical illness or injury. Treatment for mental health problems vary as do the individuals. One treatment may work for some, but not for all. Stem Cell research continues with the use of Organoids, which are the tissue cultures that are derived from stem cells (Levinsohn, 2018). Researchers are making new discoveries every day by studying a model in an approach to develop a stem cell that could resemble neurotransmitters, which help nerve cells in the brain communicate with each other (Vadodaria, Amatya, Marchetto, & Gage, 2018). Animal models, that closely resemble that of a human, are showing positive results with the placement of stems cells inside the animal brains. This gives many scientists hope that one day mental illness could be managed or better yet, cured.
Victims to Stem Sell Research
With the many lives that are saved or altered each day because of stem cells, we must remember the sacrifices and ethical dilemmas that are associated with the advancement. One of the most vocal organizations against stem cells, Right to Life, is opposed to research which destroys a developing human being. When stem cells are removed from human embryos, a unique individual dies (Lo & Parham, 2009). Right to Life advocates are pushing for alternatives to human embryos, with the use of adult stems cells.
Although adult stem cells are thought to be less useful, they are changing lives. Ethical issues need to be discussed to make sure that stem cell research is carried out in a moral manner. The protection of the donor is important to reduce the risk of unwanted harassment by those opposed to the research (RTL). With the breakthrough of iPSCs, there may be less of a need for human embryos in research. But with that being said, there is no federal regulation banning stem cell research in the United States. Certain regulations are placed on funding and how the money is used, in addition to individual states banning the use of embryos for research (Lo & Parham, 2009). The gain must out way the risk and many have fought hard to keep stem cell at bay.
Diseases are said to be that of an abnormal cell and where things go wrong, we want to fix them. The ability to renew, differentiate and specialize is nothing less that miraculous. Darwin believed with natural selection that only the organisms best adapted to their environment tend to survive and transmit their genetic characters in increasing numbers and those less adapted tend to be eliminated (Jacobus, 2017). Stem cells seem to be Darwinian-like leading to conclusion that scientists long ago had a unique perspective on the future. It is quite possible that mental health problems may be a form of natural selection, making a strong case for use of stems cells to cure this deadly disease.