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Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

Essay by   •  February 2, 2011  •  Essay  •  648 Words (3 Pages)  •  1,355 Views

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One day you’re a vibrant, healthy young individual. The next day, you find out you have a rare, currently untreatable, disease. You are diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a neurodegenerative disease that causes degeneration throughout the brain and spinal cord. This disease is generally characterized by muscle weakness, but leaves mental and ocular sharpness intact, while the remainder of the body grows weaker and weaker. Currently, as above stated, there is no cure for this disease. However, hope may be just over the scientific horizon. Stem cell research and therapeutic cloning, with all of the ethical issues they entail, have the potential of producing a cure for this only partially understood disease.

Therapeutic cloning is a relatively recent development on the medical scene. Still not fully developed or researched, therapeutic cloning is only in the first stages of development. The process involves the extraction of unfertilized eggs from women during ovulation. Afterwards, the inner genetic material of the egg is removed and replaced with cumulus cells, small cells that are used by embryos for growth and development. Then, the egg is exposed to various chemicals designed to make it divide. From there, the egg divides many times into a blastocyst, a hollow ball filled with a clump of cells called the inner cell mass. This inner cell mass contains stem cells which can be induced into forming various cells which could later be injected into patients. By this process, replacement cells could be cultured in order to replace defective cells, thus providing a way to cure genetic disorders and diseases, such as ALS (Cibelli et al, 2001).

Once scientists are capable of cloning specific types of cells, such us nerve cells, cardiac cells, etc., cures for numerous forms of diseases could finally be available. In the case of ALS, scientists could grow the specifically needed motor-neuron cells and inject or implant them into the ALS patient, replacing the faulty cells with healthy, normally functioning cells. Other degenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s, could also be treated. Someone blind from birth, in one or both eyes, could finally have sight. The possibilities of therapeutic cloning and cell replacement technology are limitless as to what miracles they could produce in the medical field. Unfortunately, due to ethical and legal issues, therapeutic cloning research is not completely

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