Reaction Paper on Stem Cell Ibilola Aridegbe Coun502 Dr. Marcia Wiinamaki 01/27/2009 Human existence begins at conception Abstract The purpose of this research includes a brief overview of information found through Intoduction Stem cell research has brought about heated debate among academics and society as a whole. Especially among Christian circles. Embryonic stem cells are derived from embryos that develop from eggs that have been fertilized in vitro or at an in vitro fertilization clinic which are then donated for research purposes with informed consent of the donors.
They are not derived from eggs fertilized in a woman’s body contrary to the belief of some. The pros and cons of stem cell research come to the surface when we examine source of stem cells – embryonic cells. Embryonic stem cells are extracted directly from an embryo before the embryo’s cells begin to differentiate. At this stage the embryo is referred to as a “blastocyst. ” There are about 100 cells in a blastocyst, a very large percentage of which are stem cells, which can be kept alive indefinitely, grown in cultures, where the stem cells continue to double in number every 2-3 days.
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A replicating set of stem cells from a single blastocyst is called a “stem cell line” because the genetic material all comes from the same fertilized human egg that started it. The embryos from which human embryonic stem cells are harvested are typically four or five days old and are a hollow microscopic ball of cells called the blastocyst. The blastocyst includes three structures: the trophoblast, which is the layer of cells that surrounds the blastocyst; the blastocoel, which is the hollow cavity inside the blastocyst; and the inner cell mass, which is a group of approximately 30 cells at one end of the blastocoel.
Those who value human life from the point of conception, oppose embryonic stem cell research because the extraction of stem cells from this type of an embryo requires its destruction. In other words, it requires that a human life be killed. Some believe this to be the same as murder and the bible says “thou shall not kill” (Deuteronomy 5:17) therefore, against this, embryonic research advocates argue that the tiny blastocyst has no human features. Central to the debate, then, is our view of the human embryo.
The biblical teaching is that human existence begins at conception (Psalm 139:13-16; Jeremiah 1:4-5). The international consensus of embryologists agrees with Scripture in that life begins at fertilization. At the moment of conception, the embryo is 100 percent human, with all 46 human chromosomes and a fully functioning, unique genetic code. Size and location do not determine humanity. Research advocates conclude that many fertilized human cells have already been banked, but are not being made available for research.
Advocates of embryonic stem cell research claim new human lives will not be created for the sole purpose of experimentation. Others argue against such research on medical grounds. Mice treated for Parkinson’s with embryonic stem cells have died from brain tumors in as much as 20% of cases. 1 Embryonic stem cells stored over time have been shown to create the type of chromosomal abnomalies that create cancer cells. Research on adult stem cells has been going on for decades and has proven that there are therapeutic effects in treating cancer, autoimmune diseases, leukemia, and heart disease.
Adult stem cells are obtained from living bone marrow, blood, brain tissue, skin, and body fat. Other sources rich in adult stem cells are umbilical-cord blood and the placenta. Those who value human life from the point of conception, oppose embryonic stem cell research because the extraction of stem cells from this type of an embryo requires its destruction. In other words, it requires that a human life be killed. Some believe this to be the same as murder. Against this, embryonic research advocates argue that the tiny blastocyst has no human features.
Further, new stem cell lines already exist due to the common practice of in vitro fertilization. Research advocates conclude that many fertilized human cells have already been banked, but are not being made available for research. Advocates of embryonic stem cell research claim new human lives will not be created for the sole purpose of experimentation. Others argue against such research on medical grounds. Mice treated for Parkinson’s with embryonic stem cells have died from brain tumors in as much as 20% of cases. Embryonic stem cells stored over time have been shown to create the type of chromosomal anomalies that create cancer cells. People argue that stem cell research in the far future can lead to knowledge on how to clone humans. It is hard to say whether this is true, but we have seen many consequences of other research, even by scientist with good intentions, such as nuclear research. Stem cells have the remarkable potential to develop into many different cell types in the human body. They serve as a kind of repair system for the body and they can theoretically divide without limit to eplenish other cells as long as the person is alive. When a stem cell divides, each new cell has the potential to either remain a stem cell or become another type of cell with a more specialized function, such as a muscle cell, a red blood cell, or a brain cell. In August 2005, Harvard University scientists announced a break-through discovery that fuses “blank” embryonic stem cells with adult skin cells, rather than with fertilized embryos, to create all-purpose stem cells viable to treat diseases and disabilities.
This discovery doesn’t result in the death of fertilized human embryos, and thus would effectively respond to pro-life objections to embryonic stem cell research and therapy. Researchers warned that it could take up to ten years to perfect this highly promising process. There are three main sources for obtaining stem cells – adult cells, cord cells, and embryonic cells. Adult stem cells can be extracted either from bone marrow or from the peripheral system. Bone marrow is a rich source of stem cells. However, some painful destruction of the bone marrow results from this procedure.
Peripheral stem cells can be extracted without damage to bones, but the process takes more time. And with health issues, time is often of the essence. Although difficult to extract, since they are taken from the patient’s own body, adult stem cells are superior to both umbilical cord and embryonic stem cells. They are plentiful. There is always an exact DNA match so the body’s immune system never rejects them. And as we might expect, results have been promising. Stem cells taken from the umbilical cord are a second very rich source of stem cells. Umbilical cells can also offer a perfect match where a family has planned ahead.
Cord cells are extracted during pregnancy and stored in cryogenic cell banks as a type of insurance policy for future use on behalf of the newborn. Cord cells can also be used by the mother, the father or others. The more distant the relationship, the more likely it is that the cells will be rejected by the immune system’s antibodies. However, there are a number of common cell types just as there are common blood types so matching is always possible especially where there are numerous donors. The donation and storage process is similar to blood banking. Donation of umbilical cells is highly encouraged.
Compared to adult cells and embryonic cells, the umbilical cord is by far the richest source of stem cells, and cells can be stored up in advance so they are available when needed. Further, even where there is not an exact DNA match between donor and recipient, scientists have developed methods to increase transferability and reduce risk. References The Real Promise of Stem Cell Research Dr. David Prentice, HealthNewsDigest. com Derivation of Human Stem-Cell Lines from Human Blastocysts, C. A. Cowan and others. March 25, 2004, New England Journal of Medicine, p. 1355 King James Version