Stem cells 101
Making the complicated understandable
December 22, 2004
What is a stem cell? A stem cell is a cell whose job in the body is not yet determined. Every single cell in the body “stems” from this type of cell – hence the name.
May Christians support scientific research? Yes. Christians are commanded by God in Genesis 1 to subdue the earth and research expands the knowledge man needs to use the earth’s resources for humanity’s good.
May Christians support stem cell research? Yes, provided such stem cells are provided by the right source.
How many types of stem cells exist? Two: Adult and embryonic.
What is the source of adult stem cells? Most body tissues including the brain, bone marrow, skin, umbilical cord and fat tissues. Thus, it does not require the taking of a life.
What are the sources of embryonic stem cells? Those produced by “therapeutic cloning” and “unused” embryos from in vitro fertility (IVF) clinics (about 40,000 IVF embryos remain frozen in cold storage). They may only be obtained through the destruction of an embryo (the taking of a life). Five to seven days after conception, the embryo is a hollow sphere containing an inner mass of stem cells that divide and specialize, forming the intricate systems of the body.
Are there problems/advantages in using adult stem cells? Adult stem cells have successfully repaired damaged tissue due to stroke, Parkinson’s disease, heart attack and spinal cord injury in animal experiments. Adult stem cells taken from bone marrow have proven effective in repairing damaged tissues like bone, cartilage and retinal cells.
Are there problems/advantages in using embryonic stem cells? Embryonic stem cells require the taking of life. Those used often trigger tumors in the tissue in which they are transplanted. Supporters say embryonic cells offer more promise because they can be used to repair any damaged cell, unlike adult stem cells. Opponents counter that research is proving that adult stem cells can be used far more widely than first thought and do not require the taking of a human life.