What are Stem Cells?
Stem cells can be described as the repair kits of our body. They are unspecialized cells that are found in the bodies of all multi-cellular creatures, that have the potential to develop into specialized cells.

Where are Embryonic Stem Cells found?
Embryonic stem cells are found in blastocysts. When a fertilized egg has undergone cell division for 5 days, it forms a hollow ball of cells. This developing embryo is known as a blastocyst. The embryonic stem cells are derived from this. It should be noted that only an egg that has been fertilized through the In Vitro Fertilization process is used.

What are the properties of Embryonic Stem Cells?
Embryonic stem cells possess remarkable properties of limitless self-renewal through cell-division, and can develop into new stem cells or more specialized types of body cells. The process of self-replication is called proliferation, and when the unspecialized cells undergo cell division, and bring forth specialized cells it is called differentiation.

How are Embryonic Stem Cells cultivated?
The blastocyst has three main parts - the trophoblast, the blastocoel, and the inner cellular mass. Embryonic stem cells are derived from this inner cellular mass, which are cultivated in a culture medium in a laboratory, over a period of time. These cells divide and proliferate, forming millions of new embryonic cells. These embryonic stem cells can remain undifferentiated or, under certain conditions, can begin to differentiate and produce specialized cells like nerve cells, blood cells, etc.

What are the uses of Embryonic Stem Cells?
Since embryonic stem cells have the potential to develop into a variety of specialized cells, they are very important in medical research. Scientists involved in embryonic stem cell research are trying to understand the conditions under which specific specialized cells are produced. By knowing how to bring about or control these conditions, they can then produce the required specialized cells on demand. These specialized cells can possibly be used in regenerative treatments for spinal cord injuries or to cure diseases like Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, diabetes, cancer, heart diseases, etc.

What are the moral and ethical issues involved in Embryonic Stem Cell usage?
As mentioned before, the embryos used in embryonic stem cell research are developed from eggs, that have been fertilized by the In Vitro Fertilization process. The eggs used are the ones that have been willingly donated for research purposes and which, as per the agreement with the donor, are never to be transplanted into a uterus to develop into a human being.

After the embryonic stem cells are extracted, there is no further development of the blastocyst. This poses as a moral problem to many religious organizations. Is it okay to let an embryo - a developing life - die in order to potentially cure diseases and alleviate suffering in those already living? However, is it right to snatch the very possibility of cure, from the hands of those suffering from fatal diseases?

Pro-life groups feel that the end does not justify the means. In other words, a blastocyst - a hollow ball of cells that is not technically a person – should not be sacrificed for the sake of research. Life is too precious. And the debate continues...
Progenitor Cells Vs. Stem Cells
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Advantages and Disadvantages of Stem Cell Research
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Fascinating Facts About Stem Cell Research
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What are Stem Cells
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Types of Stem Cells
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Stem Cell Facts
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Stem Cell Research Benefits
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History of Stem Cell Research
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Tissue Cells Can Convert to Stem Cells
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