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Stem cell lies
Stem cell research offers many miraculous possibilities in the treatment of many debilitating and terminal diseases. Serving as a ‘back-up’ system for the body, stem cells can replenish any of the cells of the body while the person or animal is alive.
(Backgrounder, par.1) In order for an embryo to become a human fetus, it must organize groups of cells then separate them to more and more specialized tasks within the development process. It must form organs in this process through the creation of some cells and the destruction of others, all the while, constructing an ever more elaborate system to integrate the overall structure. This is done at the expense of still other cells whose sole purpose is served during this process that is the entirety of their existence.
(Condic, par.4) Over twelve years ago scientists proved that if normal cell connections were disrupted between cellular progeny and the fertilized egg, the cells would form single cell suspensions that could be maintained in a culture and continue to divide and multiply indefinitely. One flask of these cells, in culture, could produce a quantity equivalent to the weight of the earth’s population in as little as sixty days. (Condic, par.6)
After one of these stem cell lines is established, it will never need to be recreated from its origins, whether embryo or adult. It is ‘immortal’, and can be grown in a lab and distributed to researchers outside the lab. (Backgrounder, par.9) Consequently, President George W. Bush has; “…concluded that we should allow federal funds to be used for research on these stem cell lines.” (Remarks by…,par.1) More than sixty stem cell lines already exist as a result of private research. (Remarks by…,par.23) These are the lines that are to receive the proposed federal funds.
This research offers remarkable new possibilities and promise. I look at members of my own family and wonder what could be or, in some cases, might have been. Stem cell research offers the possibility of a source of replacement cells to treat such diseases and disabilities as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, (of which my Grandmother on my Father’s side died), spinal injury, stroke, burns, diabetes, osteo arthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis, (of which my Grandmother on my Mother’s side died). (Backgrounder, par.4) There seems to be endless potential to this research. Where can it take us? Are we on our way to discovering the long fabled ‘fountain of youth’?
Stem cells, over the course of existing research, have been given certain designations. These designations are given according to their perceived potential. The embryonic stem cell, (ESC), is believed to be ‘tot potent’; meaning that it has the potential to become any of the millions of specialized cells in the body. ESCs come from seven day old blastocysts, (microscopic balls of 150 or so cells). There is what is known as ‘pluripotent’ stem cells which is believed can become any of the cells of the body, except the cells needed in fetal development. And finally, there is the classification ‘multipotent’ which is believed can become multiple different cells, of which multipotent adult progenitor cells, (MAPC), are said to be one. (Backgrounder, par.2) ‘Multipotent’, simply stated, means that this cell can become a limited number of cells in the human body. The fact is, that study into all types of stem cells has only just begun to scratch the surface of the true potential of any one of them. According to Maureen Condic’s report; “Science has only the most rudimentary understanding of the nature of the blueprint that orders embryonic development. Of the different types of stem cells used in research, ESC’s are attracting the most attention and generating the most controversy. ESC’s are acquired most often via in vetro fertilization, (IVF), where excess embryos are created in the course of a couple’s bettering their chances at conception. Many of these couples donate their excess embryos to research. (Embryonic stem cell research, par.10) The problem with using human embryos is the casual creating of a life only to turn around and terminate that life in the name of research that, to date has proven unsuccessful. This ethical issue of using human embryos has been the cloud hanging over ESC research. This is but one of the troubling issues concerning ESC’s. The other is that they cannot be used on human subjects because they promote tumor growth in animal studies, and using these types of stem cells as a regenerative treatment brings foreign tissues into the patient’s system, stimulating the immune system to reject those tissues. (W. Smith, par.5)
Proponents offer two ways to circumvent this problem. The first is that the researchers would establish and preserve many lines to genetically match a large number of patient’s immune systems, and second; embryonic stem cells to order, with somatic cell nucleus transfer, or taking the cell nucleus from the patient’s cell and replacing it with an enucleated egg out of which cells that are nearly perfectly matched, can be used.
These same researchers state that MAPC’s do not offer the same potential as ESC’s, hence their designation as mere ‘multipotent’ cells. Researchers say that adult stem cells may have more DNA flaws such as are caused by sunlight, toxins, and errors in producing more DNA during one’s lifetime. (Backgrounder, par.5)
I believe that the three terms researchers are throwing around these days are subject to change. As stated before, they have been used to represent the different types of stem cells based on their potential or perceived performance. Scientists have reached their conclusion on ESC’s after more than ten years of research. Adult stem cell research has only been underway a few years now, the surface having only been scratched.
(Condic, par.22) It is further believed that the cells dubbed ‘multipotent’ adult progenitor cells, MAPC’s, are as capable of as wide a range of cell replenishment as ESC’s
Stem cell research on human embryos has opened many doors and opportunities for study beyond the scope of this report, not all of which should be pursued. In spite of complications concerning research with ESC’s, the Chinese appear to be pushing forward with plans to continue ‘therapeutic cloning’, laying out guidelines and set procedures known as; ‘Guiding Principles on the Research of Stem Cells of Human Embryos’. Plans for this program are supposedly on hold, pending a vote by the UN on a proposed global treaty outlawing human cloning. (H. Jia, par.5) There are claims that a human or humans have been cloned. Brigette Boisselier, an industrial chemist and member of the raelian religious sect, claims that a seven pound baby girl named, “Eve” was born outside the US, though she refuses to produce proof of this or give out the names of those ‘scientists’ that assisted her in the experiment. (M. Riog-Franzia/ F. Weiss, par.2) I mention these cases only as examples of where one avenue of research could lead if not held in check. As we’ve observed, there are other avenues that show the same or better promise without the ethical dilemmas.
There are documented, successful cases of regenerative research using a patient’s own adult stem cells or other non-embryonic approaches. (W. Smith, par.10) For instance; five patients with advanced Parkinson’s disease had brain function partially restored as a result of using a natural body chemical known as glial-derived neutrophic factor, GDNF.
In another case involving Parkinson’s disease, a patient realized significant remission when treated with his own brain stem cells without any adverse side effects. (W. Smith, par.11) In a case in Japan, a pancreatic cancer patient experienced an eighty percent reduction in tumor size after being injected with bone marrow stem cells. (W. Smith, par.19) So why, if we have sixty stem cell lines being federally funded that can produce an endless supply of ESC’s, would we need or want more? Furthermore, knowing what we know about research results involving ESCs & MAPCs, why should we continue to fund ESCs? The sad fact is, there is a purposeful underreporting of the facts or not reporting them at all.
Consequently, many Americans are completely unaware of opportunities for medical treatments that have already been proven to work on humans without the use of ESCs and ‘therapeutic cloning’. (W. Smith,par.9)
As just alluded to, there are other ‘non-embryonic’ approaches. Recently Duke University scientists proved that stem cells from umbilical cord blood could be used successfully to treat children suffering from brain, liver, and heart diseases. Dr Peter Holland, scientific director for ‘Cells for Life’, a private cord blood bank in Ontario, was asked to comment on the belief that ESCs work better than MAPCs or umbilical cord blood stem cells, to which he answered;
"Why may they (ESCs) work better? We do not even know if they will work at all! The public must know that adult and umbilical cord blood stem cells are available, proven and ready to use for a range of diseases."
(LifeSite Daily News, par.3)
In the course of this very expensive and, at times, highly contentious research, it seems obvious to me what our most logical course of action should be. There has been more than ten years of study on ESCs with no appreciable results. There are documented cases of adult stem cell and other non-embryonic research as well as other naturally found chemicals of the body that have been successful and are readily available. To quote Dr. Holland again;
"We should focus our attention on the most readily available and useable types of cells…Embryonic stem cells, at present, are largely political rhetoric and scientific hype…"
(LifeSite Daily News, par.5)
This issue is of great importance to all of mankind. It is a shame that those on the political left would use such a life or death issue as a tool to further a dangerous and foolish ideology and to further justify infanticide, (abortion). If people are not shielded from the facts surrounding this vital, lifesaving research, I believe the American public will assert their collective will and stop all wasteful research concerning stem cells and insist that the more logical and natural avenue of research be pursued.
The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.