Embryonic Stem Cell Research
Embryonic stem cell research is a controversial subject often discussed by politicians and scientists. Most Americans want to know where politicians stand on controversial subjects concerning morale issues. Scientists often discuss embryonic stem cell research because they are excited about the prospects of discovering ways to help people combat disease or physical trauma. Usually a person is either totally for research using embryos or they are totally against it. Although some stand on the dividing line and do not take one side or the other. Others do not really understand what is at stake with using human embryos for laboratory experiments. They've heard about the subject but do not know the specifics about the process. "Woe to the rebellious children, saith the LORD, that take counsel, but not of me; and that cover with a covering, but not of my spirit, that they may add sin to sin" (Isaiah 30:1).
A human embryo is fully human, a fertilized egg that already has a nervous system, brain activity, heartbeat, and functioning organs. After being removed from the mother this little person is frozen. If this embryo is not used for reproduction then he or she is usually donated to the fertility clinic for embryonic stem cell research. Extracting the cells from the embryo or zygote will mean his or her destruction. Some of these cells are used to treat brain tumors and other anomalies in mice. The success of this type of experiment can be compromised if the frozen zygote has been stored for a long period of time because anomalies occur within the chromosomes that create cancer cells.
When President Bush was in office he allowed embryonic stem cell research to take place through private companies such as pharmaceutical corporations or state funding programs but not with Federal funds. Some researchers believed that this put the U.S. behind other countries in finding ways to help cure disease. In 2009, President Obama gave an executive order to allow funding on embryonic stem cell research using Federal funds. In a nutshell this means that every American who pays taxes is helping to fund this type of research. Destroying a human life for experiments does not set well with many Christians nor does it set well with others who are pro life. In the medical field doctors take the Hippocratic Oath to do no harm. Yet medical science seems to have no problem with using an embryo for research and therapy.
Studies have led to claims by some scientists that they found a way to fuse zygote stem cells with adult ones without killing the zygote or fetus. This is not a process that is complete and it could take many years to figure out. If the process does work then this controversy over embryonic stem cell research could be a discussion of the past. Still today the potential for using embryos far exceeds the potential when using adult stem cells. This is mostly because zygote cells are programmable because they have never been programmed before by the body so they can treat many types of diseases and injuries. Some of these include Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and spinal cord injuries among others. There is a need for help with these devastating diseases but how can we justify one life for another. Our legal system does not condone murder even when there is justification for it yet who speaks for the ones who have no voice that are murdered everyday?
The argument that researchers use for advancing embryonic stem cell research involves the rationalization that these embryos would most likely end up dying anyway. This is because the couples who provided them are not willing to donate them to other couples. However, some couples will donate them to be used in experiments. But scientists have no way to know for sure what the future holds for these little humans. To use the excuse they will be destroyed anyway is not a reason to deliberately kill. God has given us His Word so that we can learn His will about the many questions that perplex us. Even if there is the smallest doubt in one's mind that life may not begin at conception, there is no way to be sure so how can we take the chance? Is this murder? A lot of people believe it is. Even medical science can back up the different stages of a baby in the womb. Early on in the fifth and sixth week after conception the child has brain activity and a heartbeat.
An alternative that may prove to be a success over using embryos is using stem cells from human umbilical cord blood. After a child is born the umbilical cord is usually discarded. Researchers are working on a way to program the cells in the blood to resemble those found in a fetus. This find could lead to the regression of embryonic stem cell research because of morale and ethical issues. Since there are viable ways to harvest adult stem cells and even umbilical cord blood to work on cures for disease and injuries why would any scientist want to continue with the pursuit of using embryonic stem cells when so many people in America strongly disapprove? To continue after other options have been found would not make sense especially since adult stem cells and umbilical cord blood are both viable options. So, will the embryonic research continue even though alternative options have been discovered? Only time will tell. Meanwhile Christians should pray for our country and pray for those who seem to have no conscience when it comes to extinguishing an innocent human life.
Stem Cell ControversyThe stem cell controversy involves the destruction of human embryos in order to treat degenerative and genetic diseases. Embryonic cells have the potential to repair tissue damage. They can be used for different types of cells located throughout the body. Human embryos are fertilized eggs that are frozen. The embryo is usually frozen at eight weeks after fertilization. Little babies that already have brain activity and a heartbeat are not asked what they want. They are not considered at all. These little ones have no voice in this world. The stem cell controversy is a morale issue; an issue that every person should be concerned about. Using embryos for research is considered murder and goes against Christian beliefs. "The spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life" (Job 33:4). God has created each of us in his image. Only God has the right to take away life.
Using adult stem cells is not as controversial as embryonic because they do not require the use of human embryos. Adult stem cells are taken from the patient's body and grown in a laboratory with the hopes of using them to treat disease or create organs that can be transplanted. The stem cell controversy is not based upon using cells that are taken directly from an adult or even a juvenile. Taking these cells does not cause the death of the person from whom they are taken. But using the cells from a fetus does cause death to the child. Adult stem cells are used because they have the ability to reproduce or go through many cycles of division. The adult cells are self-renewing but are limited compared with embryonic. However, some research has discovered that the cells that are taken from the nose have the potential to develop into different cell types. Other types have been found in the skin, teeth, muscles, blood vessels, bone marrow, heart, brain, stomach, and liver. Scientists hope that ways will be found to manipulate the cells so they can regenerate a patient's cells to treat injuries and disease.
The stem cell controversy includes research that is being done to use the fluid that surrounds the fetus because it contains many different cell types that can be utilized without the destruction of a human embryo. The cell types in this fluid contain cells from muscles, nerves, the liver, blood vessel, bone, and fat. The research being done is bent on providing a resource for tissue repair and for organ repair but at what cost? The removal of this fluid is not supposed to be harmful to the fetus but it makes sense that this fluid is there for a reason. Perhaps this fluid is there to protect the fetus. The thought of helping others who need organs and tissue repair is a noble cause but if society condones this type of experimentation then there is the possibility that cloning will be more readily accepted in the future. The stem cell controversy can lead to more than using cells for disease and repair of tissues. If this becomes acceptable by society then what else can become acceptable to society?
Embryos are often used to assist in reproduction such as in vitro fertilization where the embryo is implanted into a female. The donated egg is fertilized by donated sperm and then implanted in a female with the hopes that the fetus will survive and grow into a precious little baby. Some women who never marry but want children have opted to go this route to have a child. Sometimes the donor couple needs an outside female party to carry the child for them because the donor female is unable to do so. Oftentimes leftover embryos are donated to science for research and development. The argument of some is that these zygotes would be disposed of anyway so why not use them to help others. Many see this as unethical and part of the stem cell controversy. If we use this type of rationalization to use a human fetus for experimentation then what else will we rationalize away?
Parties involved in scientific research make the claims that many of the zygotes related to stem cell controversy have already been aborted by women and would have to be destroyed so why not use them for research and possible treatments to humans. Abortion, being a controversial subject itself, does not justify the act of using a human fetus for experimentation or research. Women who decide to abort a child may find doing so easier if they think that research on the child's stem cells could help to save another's life. This type of thinking is dangerous and immoral. A human life should never be sacrificed for any reason. We should be careful in thinking that we can get away with playing God or making decisions that only God should make.
The case of Roe v. Wade in 1973 found that the fetus is not a person until the child can live outside the mother's womb. With the advances in medical technology a fetus can survive outside the mother's womb around 22 weeks after conception. Medical science acknowledges that life begins at conception as do many people who are pro life. Brain activity begins as early as the sixth week after conception and the heartbeat develops as early as the fifth week after conception. If an embryo is frozen at eight weeks and used for research then that would mean that the child already has a functioning brain and nervous system along with a liver that is making blood. God's Word says that life is in the blood (Deuteronomy 12:23). Thus, the stem cell controversy is understandable. The destruction of a fetus in laboratory research is unethical because this fetus is a baby, a human baby and should be respected as such.