STEM CELL RESEARCH
Stem cells are self-renewing, unspecialized cells that can give rise to all of the 210 specialized cells in the body. Differentiation is the process by which stem cells divide and form specialized cells that can perform special functions, such as blood stem cell formation or nerve cell transmission.
Stem cells may be totipotent, pluripotent, or multipotent. The fertilized egg and the first division into the two-cell blastomeres are totipotent, meaning that its potential is total, each capable of developping into a human being. In fact, identical twins develop when the zygote or blastomere separate and develop into two individual, genetically identical human beings.
A few days after fertilization, a hollow sphere called a blastocyst is formed, the outer cells of which are called the trophoblast and form the placenta, and the inner cluster of cells are called the inner cell mass. The inner cell mass are known as the pluripotent stem cells, and these form the embryo. While they can form all 210 types of cells of the human body, they are unable to form a human being, because they lack the trophoblast which attaches to the uterus and forms the placenta.
The pluripotent stem cells undergo further specialization into stem cells that are committed to give rise to cells that have a particular function, such as nerve stem cells or blood stem cells, which produce red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. These more specialized stem cells are called multipotent.
The ethical concern in Stem Cell Research is the source of stem-cells. The use of stem-cells from newborn umbilical cords or adult bone-marrows without loss of natural life is considered ethical.
The moral viewpoint is opposed to the creation of embryos by in-vitro fertilization or somatic cell nuclear transfer and then harvesting stem cells and destroying the lives of the most vulnerable human beings for the benefit of those already living. To command the death of others so that one's own life may be enhanced or prolonged is completely opposed to human rights. In effect, it is a form of cannibalism - killing a human being for the survival of another.
In the New Testament, Jesus Christ himself said: "If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments." When asked which ones, he referred to the Mosaic law (Exodus 20) and said "Thou shalt not kill" (Gospel of Matthew 19:17-18). St. Paul in Romans 3:8 further expounds: "And why not say 'Let us do evil that good may come'? Their condemnation is just."
The end never justifies the means!
1 Pope John Paul II. The Gospel of Life, the encyclical Evangelium Vitae. Time Books, Random House, New York, 1995.
2 Clark DK, STL. On Stem-Cell Research. Southern Cross, Savannah, GA, August 2, 2001.
3 Navarre Revised Standard Version of the Holy Bible. Four Courts Press, Dublin, Ireland, 2005.
4 Walters L. Human embryonic stem cell research: an intercultural perspective. Kennedy Institute Ethics Journal. March 14(1):3-38, 2004.
5 Haddad LM, MD MA Principles of Medical Ethics. 14th Annual Intensive Review in Emergency Medicine, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, 2005.
5 Beeson D and Lippman A. Egg harvesting for stem cell research: medical risks and ethical problems. Reproductive BioMedicine Online 13.4:573-579, Elsevier, Philadelphia, 2006.
7 Doerflinger RM. The problem of deception in embryonic stem cell research. Cell Proliferation 41 Supplement 1:65-70, 2008.
8 Pope John Paul II. The Splendor of Truth, the encyclical Veritatis Splendor. Pauline Books & Media, Boston, 1993.
Principles of Bioethics
Life Begins at Conception