What are stem cells?
Stem Cells are the “master cells” found in every tissue in the body, which continue to reproduce those tissues throughout one’s life. They can be manipulated in the laboratory to produce different kinds of cells and tissues. At this time, they can be obtained from many different organs including blood, bone marrow, skin, brain tissue, muscle, fat, etc.
Adult stem cells are the stem cells that have become mature or specialized and can be taken from various tissues and organs and also from the placenta, and umbilical cord.
Embryonic stem cells are those extracted from an embryo. This process requires the death of the developing embryonic human being.
Adult stem cells offer great hope
Adult stem cell research is a very exciting and essential frontier in medicine today, especially for those suffering of Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Multiple Sclerosis, or facing the tragedy of spinal cord injuries, and others.
Announcements of medical breakthroughs using adult stem cells which include those taken from tissues in the umbilical cord and placenta, and other tissues in adults, are continually being made around the world.
- Bone marrow transplants have been used successfully for many years now.
- Parkinson’s disease (cf. a patient treated by Canadian neurosurgeon, Dr. Michael Levesque, with stem cells taken from the patient’s own brain).
- Multiple Sclerosis (cf. four patients treated by Ottawa Hospital researchers with stem cells taken from their own bone marrow).
- Crohn’s disease (cf. some American patients have been successfully treated with their own blood).
- Blood diseases – Several studies in the past few years indicate success in treating myeloma and leukemia using both patients’ own stem cells and with umbilical cord blood.
There is little consideration that this new data is being incorporated into the consideration of which avenues to take in stem cell research. The claims about the effectiveness of embryonic stem cell research give the public the impression that this research is a moral imperative. These claims are simply not scientifically accurate.
Scientific risks surrounding embryonic stem cell experimentation
Embryonic stem cells have never been successfully used in clinical trials. However, in spite of this and the tremendous practical success of adult stem cells, some scientists still insist that real progress in stem cell research will only come by way of embryonic stem cell research.
- Embryonic stem cells appear to be subject to random and uncontrollable growth. On the other hand, adult stem cells seem to be more predictable in responding to the growth factors and hormones that function to re-direct their development.
- The greatest clinical problem with implanted embryonic stem cells is that the body flags them as foreign material. Consequently, they are subject to rejection by the patient’s immune system. Patients would therefore, require a life-long regimen of anti-rejection drugs with the attendant side effects.
- The growing need for anti-rejection drugs would be a financial windfall for pharmaceutical companies.
Funding for adult stem cell research
Adult stem cell research holds great promise for cures of many terrible diseases. This research would benefit from much greater and reliable resources. Adult stem cell research should, therefore, be given priority for government funding.
The controversy that surrounds the question of embryonic stem cell research expends a great deal effort that should be redirected towards more promising pursuits. Many wonder why the energy and resources being used for the political fight for embryonic stem cell experimentation are not being better invested in ongoing adult stem cell research with its solid track record of success.
A moratorium on human embryonic stem cell experimentation, with a concurrent increase in funding for adult stem cell research would help focus researchers’ efforts on the best probability for stem cell cures for some of today’s most debilitating diseases.
This would also give Canada the opportunity to stake out territory as a world leader in this exciting frontier of modern medicine.
* Material courtesy of Campaign Life Coalition
www.stemcellnetwork.ca ( Canadian stem cell research site)
www.cogforlife.org (Children of God website): See how human fetal cell lines are used for vaccine manufacturing! Let’s put a stop to the practice.