Friday, May 22, 2009

Embryonic stem cell research: Does the end justify the means?

The  [NIH] is accepting input on its proposed guidelines for embryonic stem cell research until May 26th.  You can express your opinion on this proposal by clicking  . This proposal includes federally funded research utilizing human embryos that have been produced in vitro for artificial insemination. Though, the assumption is that this type of research is performed on frozen embryos that are already stored in fertility clinics, the new proposal also calls for allowing donors the option of choosing up-front whether they want to store these 'spare' embryos or donate them for research.  The proposal even allows for harvesting and cloning human embryos for the sole purpose of extracting needed material, destroying the unutilized remaining embryonic parts.  In these cases, human lives are taken in order to cure or improve the life of other human lives. Stem cell research does have a very humane side to it.  The goal is to better understand the generation and development of human stem cells, which form all tissues in the body, in order to repair tissue on people suffering from a disease or medical condition.  There are different types of stem cells. Some cells are unipotent, meaning they create a single type of tissue, while some are multipotent because they can generate multiple types of tissue in the body.  Embryonic stem cells are pluripotent, meaning they can form or repair any body part, except the placenta. Only embryonic stem cells seem to be pluripotent, as far as we know.  However, the multipotent stem cells are useful in that they may generate or repair several body parts. These adult stem cells can be gathered from umbilical cords, blood, fat, bone marrow, muscle, and nerves, without doing any harm to the donor.  The Catholic Church does not oppose this type of stem cell research, since no human life is taken.

Source: 21 May 2009


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