Stem cell research is funded by the UK government and the supporting organisations such as Centre for Stem Cell Biology, Institute for Stem Cell Research, Scottish Stem Cell Network. As of 2008, the funds have increased from £25 million to £100 million.
Firstly, stem cell research helps to improve lives. With stem cells, it can potentially help treat a range of medical problems and diseases previously incurable and provide better treatment for patients. Cures can be created to prevent deaths and bring recovery, thus sustaining humanity. For example, cancer is something humans have been trying to combat since the oldest case in 1500 BC in Egypt. Stem cells have the potential to become a specific type of cell such as a cancer-specific immune system cells. These type of cells specifically target cancer cells and thus is a cure for cancer. Before this discovery was made, cancer could only be cured temporarily with surgery by removing the tumor or chemotherapy which could cause damage to living cells due to high frequency radioactive waves. Even so, with stem cell research, we have now progressed to using Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPS) which are artificially derived from a non-pluripotent cell, such as adult somatic cells.
(retrieved from http://www.csa.com/discoveryguides/stemcell/images/pluri.jpg)
Secondly, stem cell research helps us to have a better understanding of the existing diseases. While fetal stem cells have been tested on people with Parkinson’s disease, there was notable improvement in younger patients but older patients showed little to no improvement. However, the stem cells differentiated into neurons, some of which produced dopamine. And we have prior knowledge that insufficient amounts of dopamine in the brain can be a cause of Parkinson’s disease. From such tests, we can infer that there is a difference between Parkinson’s disease in the younger and older patients, and we can then strive to discover new knowledge about Parkinson’s disease. For example, we could hypothesise that Parkinson’s disease in the old is not only caused by lack of dopamine but other neurotransmitters as well, like histamine.
Lastly, stem cell research is for us to satisfy out natural curiosity. As humans, we all like challenges, we want to prove everything impossible possible and find solutions to problems and find out the extent to which stem cells can be a cure for diseases. That is why we have airplanes and space travel today. Once thought to be impossible, we humans have created a new path for future generations to use.
In conclusion, we researchers believe in the potential in stem cells and wish for stem cell research to be encouraged in order to bring social and economic benefits to our country and the citizens.