Stem Cell Research: The Real Issue

Written by Drew on August 4th, 2005


Stem cell research has generated a great deal of excitement over the last few years because of its potential to cure diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, diabetes, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (i.e., Lou Gehrig’s Disease), and various other disorders afflicting major organs in the human body. Suddenly, it appears that doctors may one day discover how to treat these ailments that have for so long puzzled scientists looking for their cures.

Stem cells are unspecialized cells that may differentiate into other cell types. The plasticity of these cells is what makes them so valuable to researchers. The hope is that, say, stem cells extracted from a person’s bone marrow may be used to grow neural cells to repair a spinal cord injury. While no major breakthroughs have been reached yet, doctors hope that intensive research will produce new possibilities in the near future.

However, in spite of the potential, Christians are not very enthusiastic about stem cell research. Consequently, the public perceives them to be backward, uneducated, and unconcerned about victims suffering from terrible diseases. This is a perception that needs to be corrected. The real issue for Christians is not the stem cell research itself, but rather some of the means used to harvest the cells for experimentation. Basically, stem cells come from two sources. There are “adult stem cells,” which come from cells that would never develop into a human being. And then there are “embryonic stem cells,” which are extracted from aborted fetuses and embryos left over from in vitro fertilization. Christians encourage research based on the former source, but abhor research based on the latter.

Americans have not been informed on the abundant sources for adult stem cells. Researchers have been able to derive stem cells from bone marrow, white blood cells, dental pulp from baby teeth, the umbilical cord, amniotic fluid, the placenta, the nose, hormones excreted from the thyroid and liver, white matter in the brain, the small intestine, and the spleen. None of these extractions require that we experiment on defenseless, unborn living beings, as do those of the embryonic type.

It is alleged that adult stem cells do not have the plasticity of embryonic stem cells, but the research does not bear this out. In fact, some studies have shown that adult stem cells produce better results than the embryonic variety!

But even if adult stem cells were not as effective as those harvested from the unborn, the issue for Christians remains the same—saving one life does not justify the killing of another.

There is nothing “unchristian” about medical advances and scientific discovery. These blessings are gifts from God. But as we move ever forward, let us not forget our humanity and our morals. And, most importantly, let us not forget our God.

 

1 Comments so far ↓

  1. Jason Pulliam says:

    Drew,
    This is an excellent article on Stem Cell research. While very controversial in nature, stem cell research is on the cutting edge of medicine, and its importance and usefulness cannot be overlooked. The long term implications of successful cell based therapy is to great to ignore. It would be irresponsible not to explore the possiblities of treating diseases including Diabetes, Parkinson’s, and others that you mentioned in your article.

    Cell based therapy is the future of medicine, but it can be investigated, explored and studied without destroying human life. I thank you for showing the alternatives to embryonic stem cell research and the usefulness of adult stem cells.

    Click here for a website that may be useful for anyone wanting to learn more about stem cell research and the possibilities it may offer to medicine.

    Another article published today by reuters is titled, “Scientists Find Flexible Stem Cells in Placenta.” This article discusses the possibility of using placental stem cells as an alternative to embryonic stem cells.

    Thank you for your efforts in starting this blog. I hope that the information from the NIH site and the article are useful for those interested in further understanding stem cell research.

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