Stem cell issue at a glance
June 14, 2005
Stem cell: a cell that has the ability of developing into any of the nearly 220 types of cells in the human body.
Embryonic stem cell: a stem cell derived from a human embryo.
Adult stem cell: a stem cell derived from tissue containing cells that already have partly specialized (multipotent cells). It does not require the destruction of an embryo (human life).
Sources of embryonic and adult stem cells
Fertility clinics. During in-vitro fertilization, clinics routinely fuse more than one egg with sperm. That way, if implanting an embryo doesn’t work the first time, they can try again. This practice has left thousands of unwanted embryos stored in clinic freezers.
Cloning. Advanced Cell Technology of Worcester, Mass., acknowledged in July 2001 that it is trying to create cloned human embryos as sources for stem cells. The company wants to sell its stem cells to other researchers.
Made to order. The Jones Institute in Virginia, where the first U.S. test-tube baby was conceived, has mixed sperm and eggs expressly to create embryos as sources for stem cells.
Aborted babies. John Gearhart, the Johns Hopkins University biologist credited, along with James Thomson, with first culturing stem cells, extracted his from aborted babies donated by women at a nearby abortion clinic in 2001.
Ways to obtain adult stem cells without destroying life
Human fat, placentas and umbilical cords, bone marrow, organs, blood.
Adult stem cell research shows promise in helping cure afflictions like diabetes nerve damage, immune system defects, and neurological disease.
Problems associated with embryonic stem cell research
Death of a person – When stem cells are removed from the embryo, the embryo is destroyed. The only difference between the embryo and a fully grown human being is time.
Loss of human value – Creating human embryos for research purposes reduces human beings at their earliest stages of development to nothing more than slaves of their masters. They are conceived, used, and destroyed, with no freedom to choose their own fate.
Disastrous outcomes – A study conducted to treat patients with Parkinson’s disease by implanting fetal tissue cells into patients’ brains showed that in about 15 percent of the patients, the cells grew too well, producing so much of a chemical that controls movement that the patients writhed and jerked uncontrollably. Unfortunately, there is no way to stop the problem. Embryonic stem cells have also caused the formation of tumors.
Source: Ethics & Religious Commission