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Stem Cells to Save Endangered Species

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There are 16,928 species listed as endangered and 905 listed as extinct in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List criteria (Tobin, 2010). Many ways have been discussed on how to prevent these endangered species from adding to that list of 905, but most have failed. The most basic and probably most efficient way to end extinction of species would be to stop invading their habitats. However, that won’t happen. So, scientists have dug deeper into biology and are testing stem cells on these endangered animals in an effort to put them back at a sustainable level of species survival. This stem cell research is a very good strategy to help these endangered species and prevent their extinction. Stem cells are biological cells found in multicellular organisms that can divide into many different specialized types of cells. The potential for these cells to divide into specialized cells is called potency. Stem cells can self produce, which makes them very useful in the medical field. The two categories of stem cells are embryonic and somatic. The embryonic stem cells are obtained from embryos form using in vitro fertilization. Somatic, or adult, stem cells are obtained from bone marrow, the heart, brain, and other parts of the adult body, but are very small in quantity, which makes them more difficult to obtain (‘Stem Cell Information”, 2009). Some say that stem cell research should not be carried out because of what their religion tells them. In my opinion, that is not valid enough of a reason to prevent the research from happening, because this is a field that has so much more to learn about, and could lead to very big medical breakthroughs. Others say, aside
Thomas 2 from their religious beliefs, that it is just cruel to create these embryos in labs to use for medicine. While this does seem unethical, the pros outweigh the cons greatly in this argument. Restoring an endangered species back to a stable state is not an easy task, especially a species like the northern white rhinoceros, which only has seven of its kind alive. These rhinos and also the drill primate are some of the main species tested with stem cell research. The research being done will definitely help; it’s just a matter of time. Enough research must be done to make the therapy effective enough to do much good before the species goes extinct. There is a “Frozen Zoo” which has been created as part of the San Diego Zoo, which contains many types of cells from over 800 species. Oliver Ryder is a study researcher at The San Diego Zoo who works with this Frozen Zoo. He says, “The best way to manage extinctions is to preserve species and their habitats, but that’s not working all the time. Stem cell technology provides some level of hope that they won’t have to become extinct even though they’ve been completely eliminated from their habitats” (Niles, 2011).
If scientists can get stem cells to differentiate into sperm or egg cells, they could take skin cells from long-dead animals in the Frozen Zoo, trigger differentiation into sperm cells, and combine those with a living animal’s eggs using in vitro fertilization. This could potentially bring back that species into a stabilized population. Another option resembles cloning. If both sperm and egg cells can be produced by the stem cells, they can create an embryo and plant it inside a living animal (Scripps Research Institute, 2011). This research could definitely help with
Thomas 3 human infertility problems as well, and it is something that needs to be studied much more thoroughly. Stem cell research will, without a doubt, prevent endangered species from becoming extinct. Time is necessary, however, for these therapies to be fully successful. More support is needed for the field of stem cell research technology. Governments everywhere need to put more funding into this research, because it can and will discover wonders in the medical field. These endangered species depend on stem cell treatment for any hopes of survival, because humanity won’t stop taking over their natural habitats.…...

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