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Embryonic Stem Cell Research: Why Not? May 9, 2009

Posted by earthking in Uncategorized.

This is a continuation of a post from April 30th.  I saw enough interest in this subject that I will now write why some oppose embryonic stem cell research.

First and foremost, stem cells are cells that have the ability to generate into many types of cells, hence the name, stem cells.  Some are able to only produce one type of cell (Ex. blood cells), others can develop into many types of cells (Ex. blood cells, heart tissue cells, liver cells), and the ones that interest scientists the most are those that are able to develop into any kind of cell. 

Stem cells can be derived from two main sources:  human embryos and cells taken from other sources in the human body, like bone marrow and umbilical cords- adult stem cells.  Adult stem cells have been used for years in bone marrow transplants.  However, adult stem cells have been thought to have been limited because it was believed they could not develop into any type of cell, whereas those taken from human embryos are able to develop into any cell type.  There is evidence that this is not the case, but that is one reason why embryonic stem cells were pursued. 

The moral quandry with doing work with human embryonic stem cells is that during the process of the work, the embryo is destroyed, i.e., killed.  If the embryo is simply a bunch of cells, then there wouldn’t be any objection at all.  However, if it is already an organism, a human organism, then it should be protected just like anyone else.  Human embryonic stem cells are derived at a later stage, the blastocyst stage.  But at the one-celled stage, the zygote stage, it already is an organism.  Embryologists have already determined that an organism begins to exist at the zygote stage.  I heard an objection to this viewpoint stating that the embryo is not a human being until it is implanted in the uterus of the mother.  But, if it were not already an organism, which acts as a whole with the parts subordinated to the whole, then it would not implant.  The mere fact that it implants as a whole describes the work that an organism does.  For those who want a more scientific background on this, please go to:  westchesterinstitute.net.  It is a great website.

Obviously, I can’t write extensively on this topic because of the nature of the blog.  There have been other advances in the area of stem cell research that I will try to keep writing about, since I understand the topic and can hopefully put it into laymen’s terms.  It is crucial that people understand what is going on in this area of promising scientific research.



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