July 10, 2009 | by Jan F. Dudt | Topic: Faith & Society Print
We hear a lot about stem cells, which are front-and-center as a major policy debate in America, one that involves science, medicine, ethics, politics, and much more.
What are the issues? Whats at stake? What are embryonic and non-embryonic stem cells? What are the crucial differences and distinctions we need to make as a society and citizenry?
Stem-cell technologies are some of the newest and fastest developing biotechnologies. Typically, along with genetic engineering and cloning, these technologies constitute the kind of 21st century advances that make this the century of Biology.
A stem cell is a type of cell that is nonspecific in its function; in contrast, for instance, to a heart or brain cell, which is functionally specific. There are two major sources of stem cells: embryonic stem cells and non-embryonic stem cells. Embryonic stem cells are obtained from 5- to 12-day old embryos. Although removal of a stem cell from an embryo kills the embryo, the stem cells are valued for their potential to produce any type of cell. That is, they have high plasticity. Conversely, non-embryonic stem cells are found in large quantities in placenta, umbilical cord blood, amniotic fluid, and in essentially all adult organs or tissues, including bone marrow, fat, kidney, liver, pancreases, intestines, breast, lung, etc. Any of these non-embryonic stem cells have ample plasticity and can give rise to nearly any type of cells, including heart, liver, lung, muscle, etc.
Thus, the heart of the stem-cell controversy centers on the aforementioned fact that the extraction of stem cells from 5- to 12-day embryos kills the embryo. But thats not the only issue: In addition, stem cells derived from an embryonic human may, in turn, reject the person who receives them. This situation is called graft-versus-host-disease (GVHD). The problem can be avoided by producing an embryonic clone of the person needing the stem cells. However, the procedure produces an embryo that is indistinguishable from an embryo from a fertilized egg. This embryonic clone would be destroyed during the stem-cell harvesting required by the therapy. This type of cloning is called therapeutic cloning, since the production of a human baby is not the goal. (Reproductive cloning, producing a cloned human baby, has been universally outlawed.)
Another problem is that the embryonic stem cells can unpredictably cause cancer in the treated patient.
On the other hand, newly developed treatments associated with non-embryonic (adult) stem cells are way ahead of any hoped-for treatments associated with embryonic stem cells. Recent non-embryonic stem-cell therapies include treatments for non-healing bone breaks, healing damaged hearts, regenerating damaged muscles, correcting scoliosis, regenerating knee cartilage, treating thalassemia, osteoarthritis, diabetes, lupus, multiple sclerosis, spinal chord and nerve damage. Treatments to heal conditions associated with almost any organ or tissue are in view. These advances cast serious doubt on the need to develop embryonic stem-cell therapies, especially since embryonic technologies are morally objectionable, given that they require the death of the human embryo.
The use of ones own adult stem cells (autologous stem-cell transplant) is a way to avoid the problems of rejection and of killing human embryos. Also, certain types of adult stem cells (mesenchymal cells) can be harvested from anyone and changed in the lab (transdifferentiated) into a desired cell. In both of these stem-cell applications there are no adverse effects to the donor of the adult stem cells. The non-embryonic stem cells are safely harvested, purified from other cells and/or expanded in culture, and introduced into the patient without rejection. In another process, virtually any adult cell can be harvested from ones own body and treated to become cells capable of producing the needed cell type (induced pluripotent stem cells or iPS). These cells can also be cultured in the lab, and reintroduced into the patient. All of these sources of adult stem cells avoid the problem of having to use patented embryonic stem-cell lines that would be less available to the public.
And yet, the reputed plasticity of the embryonic stem cells continues to make the prospects of doing research on human embryos attractive to researchers who are uninhibited by the prospect of killing human embryos.
It is worth pointing out that, in terms of medical applications and treatments, two major facts are usually left out of these discussions: First, non-embryonic stem-cell treatments have been used to treat tens of thousands of patients, and with dramatic benefits. However, embryonic stem cells have not had one clinical trial with humans. Also, it has been clearly demonstrated that non-embryonic stem cells do not produce cancerous tumors in humans. Whether iPS cells share this non-tumorigenic quality is not yet clear. However, iPS cells have all of the medical application value hoped for in embryonic stem cells.
It must be noted that in a field as rapidly moving as stem-cell research, this situation will likely not be current for long. However, the current progress of stem-cell research as of spring 2009 speaks volumes regarding the effectiveness of non-embryonic vs. embryonic stem-cell research. The promises of embryonic stem-cell researchers are wildly overstated. The claims that embryonic stem-cell therapies will be available in five to 10 years rings hollow.
Aside from these scientific considerations, there are moral-religious matters of obvious concerns to Christians:
Christians committed to the sanctity of human life should look with favor on technologies that preserve and/or improve human life. Consequently, non-embryonic stem-cell advances should be embraced when they: 1) respect the consent and preserve the dignity of the stem-cell donors, 2) enhance the health of the stem-cell recipient, and 3) protect human life at every stage of development. Embryonic stem-cell harvesting remains problematic because the procedure destroys the smallest and most helpless members of the human family: embryos.
In truth, embryonic stem-cell use is being trumped by successful and surprising advances in adult and other non-embryonic stem-cell research. These advances protect the dignity of the donor and recipient while recognizing the value of all humans, regardless of their stage of life, from conception through old age. Hence, all frozen human embryos should be given a chance to be born, not given over to researchers to be destroyed for the sake of a research project.
Dr. Jan Dudt is a professor of biology at Grove City College and fellow for medical ethics with The Center for Vision & Values. He teaches as part of colleges required core course Studies in Science, Faith and Technology wherein students, among other things, study all of the major origins theories and are asked to measure them in the light of biblical authority.
All posts by Jan F. Dudt | High resolution photos
- Human blastocyst-like structures generated entirely from pluripotent stem cells. Shifting the paradigm of developmental biology? - ESHRE - April 4th, 2021
- Human Embryonic Stem Cells (HESC) Market 2021 Is Rapidly Increasing Worldwide in Near Future | Top Companies Analysis- ESI BIO, Thermo Fisher,... - April 4th, 2021
- New Michigan law requires those receiving Johnson & Johnson vaccine be told it was developed using stem cells | TheHill - The Hill - April 4th, 2021
- Xenobots 2.0 are Here and Still Developed With Frog Stem Cells - Unite.AI - April 4th, 2021
- Global Human Embryonic Stem Cells Industry Market 2021 In-depth Industry Analysis, Growth By 2027:Lonza Group Ltd., Life Technologies Corporation,... - April 4th, 2021
- AgeX Therapeutics Reports Fourth Quarter and Annual 2020 Financial Results and Provides Business Update - Business Wire - April 4th, 2021
- Research Associate in Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine job with KINGS COLLEGE LONDON | 246711 - Times Higher Education (THE) - February 17th, 2021
- Stem Cells Market Size 2021 by Share Growing Rapidly with Recent Trends, Size, Development, Revenue, Demand and Forecast to 2024 NeighborWebSJ -... - February 17th, 2021
- Cell transplant therapy could be a treatment for leading cause of blindness - The Denver Channel - February 17th, 2021
- Cellular Reprogramming Tools Market likely to touch new heights by end of forec - Business-newsupdate.com - February 17th, 2021
- Human Embryonic Stem Cells Market Analysis By Growth ... - February 9th, 2021
- Pros and Cons of embryonic stem cells - Pros an Cons - February 9th, 2021
- Worldwide Cell Therapy Industry to 2027 - Profiling Allosource, Medipost and Mesoblast Among Others - PRNewswire - February 9th, 2021
- Reactivation of the pluripotency program precedes formation of the cranial neural crest - Science Magazine - February 4th, 2021
- Should We Double The Age When Science Can Experiment On Babies? - 550 KTSA - February 4th, 2021
- Why Cynata is hopeful its COVID treatment trial will succeed where others have failed - Business News Australia - February 4th, 2021
- Missouri State Representative Indicted Over Alleged Stem Cell Therapy Scam - IFLScience - February 4th, 2021
- Global Human Embryonic Stem Cells Market increasing demand with Industry Professionalist |know the Brand Players forecast 2027 Jumbo News - Jumbo... - February 4th, 2021
- Push on to Allow Expanded Human-Embryo Research - National Review - February 4th, 2021
- Stem Cells Market is Expected to Thrive at Impressive CAGR by 2025 Murphy's Hockey Law - Murphy's Hockey Law - February 4th, 2021
- Stem Cell Therapy Market Size, Top Key Players, Applications, Business Statistics, Trends and Forecast 2021-2027 The Bisouv Network - The Bisouv... - February 4th, 2021
- Stem Cell Therapy Market Size to Reach USD 5,040 Million by 2028 | Rising Public-Private Investments and Developing Regulatory Framework for Stem Cell... - January 30th, 2021
- Stem Cell Therapy Market 2021: Global Key Players, Trends, Share, Industry Size, Segmentation, Forecast To 2027 KSU | The Sentinel Newspaper - KSU |... - January 30th, 2021
- Stem Cell Manufacturing includes Attractiveness and Raw Material Analysis and Competitor Position Grid Analysis to 2027 | Merck KGaA, Thermo Fisher... - January 30th, 2021
- RNA Molecules Are Masters of Their Own Destiny Regulating Their Own Production Through a Feedback Loop - SciTechDaily - January 30th, 2021
- The chromosomal protein SMCHD1 regulates DNA methylation and the 2c-like state of embryonic stem cells by antagonizing TET proteins - Science Advances - January 23rd, 2021
- North America to be the Torchbearer to Stem Cell Characterization And Analysis Tools Market NeighborWebSJ - NeighborWebSJ - January 23rd, 2021
- New Research Grant Seeks to Clarify the Role Genes Play in Modulating Inflammation - NYU Langone Health - January 23rd, 2021
- JARID2 and AEBP2 regulate PRC2 in the presence of H2AK119ub1 and other histone modifications - Science Magazine - January 23rd, 2021
- DiNAQOR Acquires EHT Technologies GmbH to Advance Engineered Heart Tissue R&D Capabilities - PRNewswire - January 19th, 2021
- TBC1D3 promotes neural progenitor proliferation by suppressing the histone methyltransferase G9a - Science Advances - January 19th, 2021
- 'He was very honored in his work' - Mercer Island Reporter - December 28th, 2020
- Israeli biotech firm's ALS treatment shows safety of use in trials - The Jerusalem Post - December 16th, 2020
- Ca Bishops To Work w/ Govt on Vaccination Campaigns - Catholic Herald Online - December 14th, 2020
- Human Embryonic Stem Cells (HESC) Market 2019 | Analyzing The Impact Followed By Restraints, Opportunities And Projected Developments | DataIntelo -... - December 6th, 2020
- Stem Cell Market Technology 2021 and Application, Segmentation by Leading Global Players, Market Status by Share and Size Forecast to 2024 - The... - December 6th, 2020
- Stem Cell Therapy Market Size, Opportunities, Dynamic, Outlook and Forecast To 2027 - Cheshire Media - December 6th, 2020
- Stem Cells Market will grow at CAGR of 8.61% by 2027 Cheshire Media - Cheshire Media - December 6th, 2020
- Stem Cell Medical Research to Expand in California Following Passage of Prop. 14 - Times of San Diego - November 27th, 2020
- Mechanisms of Telomere Protection Are Unique in Stem Cells - Technology Networks - November 27th, 2020
- Stem Cells Market by 2020 Research Report by Manufactures, Types, Applications, Regions and Trends to 2024 | Absolute Reports - The Market Feed - November 25th, 2020
- Autologous Stem Cell Based Therapies Market Share, Growth by Top Company, Region, Application, Driver, Trends & Forecasts by 2026 - PRnews Leader - November 25th, 2020
- Stem Cells Market Research Provides an In-Depth Analysis on the Future Growth Prospects and Industry Trends Adopted by the Competitors | (2020-2027),... - November 25th, 2020
- Stem Cells Market 2020: Rising with Immense Development Trends across the Globe by 2027 - The Market Feed - November 25th, 2020
- Global Regenerative Medicine Market 2020-2025: Opportunities with the Implementation of the 21st Century Cures Act - Yahoo Finance - November 25th, 2020
- Stem Cell Characterization and Analysis Tool Market 2020: Potential growth, attractive valuation make it is a long-term investment | Know the COVID19... - November 25th, 2020
- Autologous Stem Cell Based Therapies Market 2020 Emerging Trend and Advancement - News by aeresearch - November 9th, 2020
- Human Embryonic Stem Cells (HESC) Market 2020 Manufacturer Analysis, Emerging Trends, Top Companies and Forecast to 2027 - TechnoWeekly - November 7th, 2020
- Voters asked to approve $5.5 billion for stem cell research - Lebanon Express - November 7th, 2020
- Transcriptional priming as a conserved mechanism of lineage diversification in the developing mouse and human neocortex - Science Advances - November 7th, 2020
- Cell Therapy Manufacturing Market to be Worth USD 8 billion by 2030, predicts Roots Analysis - PRnews Leader - November 7th, 2020
- U.S. elections bring wins and losses for research community - Science Magazine - November 5th, 2020
- Stem Cell Therapy Market Size, Key Development Trends, and Growth Projection to 2027 - Stock Market Vista - November 5th, 2020
- Global Stem Cells Market 2020 Industry Outlook, Growth, Comprehensive Insights and Forecast 2025 - PRnews Leader - November 5th, 2020
- Panelists debate the implications and ethics of stem cell research - Johns Hopkins News-Letter - October 30th, 2020
- Stem Cell and Regenerative Therapy Market to Remain Balanced During the the COVID-19 Period - re:Jerusalem - October 30th, 2020
- Study Identifies Pitfall for Correcting Mutations in Human Embryos with CRISPR - Columbia University Irving Medical Center - October 30th, 2020
- Yale New Haven Health Docs: Interpreting the Uptick in Covid-19 Cases - Greenwich Free Press - October 30th, 2020
- Is the Pro-Life Movement on a Collision Course with the Coronavirus? - The Dispatch - October 29th, 2020
- Outlook for stem cell therapy - its role in tendon regeneration - different treatments for horse tendon injuries - Trainer Magazine - October 29th, 2020
- Yale Health advises against large Thanksgiving gatherings; eastern Connecticut now considered a 'hot spot' - The Westerly Sun - October 29th, 2020
- Stem Cell Therapy Market to Register Unwavering Growth During 2025 - The Think Curiouser - October 29th, 2020
- Human Embryonic Stem Cells (HESC) Market Share, Analysis and In-depth Research on Market Size, Trends, Emerging Growth Factors and Regional Forecasts... - October 20th, 2020
- COVID-19 Analysis to Understand the Competitive Outlook of Human Embryonic Stem Cells (HESC) Market - The Think Curiouser - October 20th, 2020
- Competitive Landscape of Human Embryonic Stem Cells (HESC) Market 2020 | Global Industry Size, Volume, Trends and Revenue Forecast to 2025 - The Think... - October 20th, 2020
- Stem Cells Market 2020 is predicted to rise with a CAGR of XX% by 2026 | Including Growth Prospect, Market Size & Growth, Key Vendors, Top most... - October 20th, 2020
- Global Stem Cell Reconstructive Market- Industry Analysis and Forecast (2020-2027) - Stock Market Vista - October 20th, 2020
- Global Stem Cell Manufacturing Market: Industry Analysis and forecast 2019 2027: By Product, Application, End-Users and Region - Stock Market Vista - October 20th, 2020
- The Infodemic: Was Regeneron COVID-19 Treatment Developed Using Stem Cells and Fetal Tissue? - Voice of America - October 15th, 2020
- COVID-19 Impact on Global Human Embryonic Stem Cells Market 2020 Industry Overview, Demand and Insights Analysis Report by 2026 ESI BIO, Thermo... - October 15th, 2020
- Yes on 14 | Mailbox | independentnews.com - Livermore Independent - October 15th, 2020
- I've Spent Decades Studying How People Build Their Families. Here's What I've Learned Matters Most - TIME - October 15th, 2020
- Human Embryonic Stem Cells (HESC) Market Size, Regional Insights and Industry Dynamics By 2027 | By Top Leading Vendors Thermo Fisher, Esi Bio,... - September 30th, 2020
- Global Human Embryonic Stem Cells Market 2020 to Witness Huge Growth by 2026 | Top Key Players; Lonza Group Ltd., Life Technologies Corporation,... - September 30th, 2020
- Global Stem Cell Reconstructive Market- Industry Analysis and Forecast (2020-2027) - Unica News - September 30th, 2020
- Stem Cell Therapy Market Size, Analytical Overview, Key Players, Growth Factors, Demand, Trends And Forecast to 2027 - The Daily Chronicle - September 23rd, 2020
- Stem Cell Manufacturing Market 2020 Global Industry Analysis, Size, Growth, Trends, Share, COVID-19 Impact Analysis, and Forecast 2027| Merck Group,... - September 23rd, 2020
- The Fascinating Story of Q Stock BioRestorative Therapies Inc (OTCMKTS: BRTXQ) - MicroCap Daily - September 18th, 2020
- Global Stem Cell Therapy Market 2020 Research on Import-Export Details, Business Standards and Forecast to 2025 - Scientect - September 18th, 2020
- Study Focuses On New Discovery In Regenerative Medicine | newkerala.com Health News - New Kerala - September 18th, 2020