A stem cell is a type of cell found throughout the body of all human beings. Stem cells can reproduce themselves over a long period of time without changing. They also have the capability to produce other types of specialized cells, such as brain cells, muscle cells, and lung cells, to name but a few.
There are a number of different places from which stem cells can be obtained:
- Bone marrow
- Fat cells
- Umbilical cord blood
- Adult blood
- Olfactory nerve endings
- Skin cells
- Human embryo
Obtaining stem cells from a human embryo is highly unethical. There is only one way to obtain stem cells from a developing human embryo, and it involves killing the embryo. A human embryo is an innocent human being in his first stage of life. It is always and in every case morally wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being at any point in life, including the embryonic stage of development.
Obtaining stem cells from fatty tissue, bone marrow, or the umbilical cord after the birth of a baby, on the other hand, may be done ethically. No harm comes to the person whose stem cells are obtained for research in such a fashion.
There are those in the government and scientific community who say more money must be spent on human embryonic stem cell research because it holds the most promise for helping people with conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s researcher Ned Potter said, however, that human embryonic stem cell research would not help the Alzheimer’s patient at all. In Alzheimer’s, it is the degeneration of the nerve cells that cause the problem because they lose their ability to connect with each other. The injection or infusion of embryonic stem cells are not the ones needed.
Contrary to the impression many people have, research involving human embryonic stem cells is not new — it has been around for many years. Yet, human embryonic stem cell research has thus far been unsuccessful in the quest to develop any therapeutic treatments.
Therefore, it is speculated that those who support human embryonic stem cell research are clamoring loudly for taxpayer dollars because private companies know human embryonic stem cell research is neither worth their time nor their money.
On the other hand, research involving adult stem cells has not only been around for a long time, it has also been used successfully for decades! Bone marrow transplants, for instance, help people every day. There are more than 70 diseases or conditions including leukemia, immune system and other blood disorders, cancers and autoimmune diseases that respond well when adult stem cell therapy is used. (See http://www.stemcellresearch.org/facts/treatments.htm for the most current list.)
It is further speculated that those who support human embryonic stem cell research are also seeking human embryos for the purposes of human cloning.
Human cloning is a reality, with human cloning experiments now being conducted—not by fictional wild-eyed rebels, but by credentialed experts working in some of the world’s most respected institutions, some of which are publicly funded with tax dollars.
These researchers are working under the mantra, if it can be done, it will be done—and it MUST be done. However, that philosophy ignores the key question, SHOULD it be done?
The science fiction definition of “clone” suggests that the cloned organism would be an exact genetic copy of another creature—human or beast—created in the laboratory by any of a number of means. But that’s not exactly the case. No matter how good a photocopier is, for instance, upon close examination you can usually tell the difference between the original and the copy. So too with cloning, there are differences— so much so that despite the “exact copy” claim, the cloned organism is actually unique genetically. That’s only one of the deceptions, but it’s one that’s made frequently, and one that’s seldom questioned.
If you’re armed with the facts, you can defend millions of embryonic human beings, and maybe even help celebrities and media figures learn the truth. While stem cell research and human cloning are complex topics, the facts are readily available. The message is not pro-life or religious by any means. It is secular science, in concert with international standards, agreed to by human embryologists from around the world, most of whom are not pro-life or even religious themselves.