Facts That Will Help You Make An Informed Decision
Stem cell research is the science pertaining to the study of stem cells for the benefit of mankind. Stem cells have the capacity of generating into various cells, tissues and organs, which is why research in this field is so important. It may be that in the future human beings need not wait for horribly long periods to get a donor for an failing organ; they could rather have one regenerated or even ‘made to order’ with the help of stem cells.
Why Stem Cells Are So Important?
Stem cells are considered extremely important because they have the capacity of dividing and renewing themselves repeatedly over long periods. This process is called proliferation. These cells remain un-specialized, i.e. not forming a particular type of cell or tissue. Yet, any of these stem cells can give rise to specialized cells. Scientists through stem cell research are trying to understand this process. They are looking for answers to why these cells can proliferate for a year or longer, while other cells cannot.
The answers to these questions would be a boon to mankind for it would be able to cure cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, organ failure and so on.
Why Donating Eggs Is Necessary For Stem Cell Research?
There are a number of sources for stem cells among which, four are most common:
1. Embryonic stem cells – these cells come from blastocysts or in lay-person’s language embryos that are about 4-5 days old. At this age the embryo consists of about 150 pluripotent stem cells. The term “pluripotent” means that these stem cells can divide to specialize into any type of cell – which in turn would become any type of organ. When women donate eggs, the eggs are used to create this source for stem cells for research purposes.
2. Adult stem cells – these would be found mainly in the bone marrow of adults. However, you can also have stem cells from the placenta and the umbilical cord. These cells are also called ‘somantic stem cell’, which literally means ‘of the body’.
3. Induced pluripotent cells – nuclear programming is used to induce adult cells to behave in the same way as embryonic stem cells. However, this method is not yet perfected. When it is, this could solve the eternal controversy of having women donate eggs for stem cell research.
4. Amniotic fluid stem cells – another potential source is the amniotic fluid. However, this method is yet to be studies for its full potential.
Getting Stem Cells Made from Eggs Alone
Video From : American Museum of Natural History
As you can observe, from the above major four sources, only the egg donation is the most reliable source. This is the reason why donating eggs is so important for stem cell research. All other sources are not yet perfected to provide the quality of stem cells needed for research.
Who Is Eligible to donate eggs for stem cell research?
There are many eligibility criteria for egg donation for stem cell research such as:
1. Age – Most research facilities would require that the woman be aged not less than 18 and not more than 30.
2. Educational qualification/ IQ level/ etc. – when you donate for research educational qualification is not important.
3. No genetic defects – the woman would need to be healthy. There would be several tests to check whether the donor suffers from any disease of has any genetic defects.
4. Psychologically ready – there are possibilities that the donor develops psychological problems during or post the process. This is why very strict screening is applied for ever donor – to ensure that they are mentally ready to go through the process.
5. Understand the risks and are able to go through the medical procedure – the screening would also ascertain whether the donor understands what the procedure involves [i.e. it is unpleasant, uncomfortable, invasive, requires to inject self; and may have side effects such as nausea, physical discomfort, pain, etc] and that they can go through it.
What Is There In It For You?
Most egg donors are in this line for the compensation. The average pay ranges between $4,500 and $35,000 – which can be of immense help for anyone who is economically challenged. At the same time, there are donors who genuinely want to be part of research and do it for the satisfaction that they could contribute to advancement of science.
What Are The Risks?
The process is not without risks. The research facility is obligated to explain to the donors who donate eggs for stem cell research all the risks involved through the procedure. Even so, it is very important that you are educated and well informed about any and all such risks before you take the decision to donate your eggs. A few of the risks are listed below:
– You will need to inject yourself for about 10-14 days to stimulate production of hormones to produce multiple eggs. This is uncomfortable, painful and may cause bruises on the skin.
– You may experience side effects due to hormonal stimulation i.e. mood swings, fatigue, body ache, sleep disorders, hot flashes, tender breasts, etc.
– The retrieval of eggs may cause complications such as pelvic inflammation and bleeding.
– You may suffer from long-term psychological problems such as regret, guilt, etc.
 National Institute of Health Resource for Stem Cell Research. Stem Cell Information. Page last modified on 28 April 2009 – http://stemcells.nih.gov/info/basics/basics2.asp