Snapshot of Embryonic Stem Cell Research (Human Cloning)
A stem cell is essentially a “blank” cell, capable of becoming another more differentiated cell type in the body, such as a skin cell, a muscle cell, or a nerve cell. Microscopic in size, stem cells are big news in medical and science circles because they can be used to replace or even heal damaged tissues and cells in the body. They can serve as a built-in repair system for the human body, replenishing cells lost through disease or injury. [from stemcellresearchfacts.org]
Controversy regarding stem cell research is due to the source of the stem cells used for research. Embryonic stem cells are found in 5-7 day old human embryos. Adult stem cells are found in pregnancy-related tissues, including placentas, umbilical cords and amniotic fluid, as well as in many adult tissues, including brain, bone marrow, blood, skeletal muscle and skin.
Embryonic stem cell research is unethical and unproven.
Embryonic stem cell research requires the destruction of a human embryo. Sources for human embryos include:
- leftover embryos created through in vitro fertilization
- embryos created through Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT)
SCNT is Human Cloning
Scientists differentiate between therapeutic and reproductive human cloning. Both are unethical because they involve the production of a cloned embryo, regardless of whether the embryo is destroyed for research (therapeutic cloning) or implanted in a womb (reproductive cloning). Human cloning requires human eggs, which can only come from female ovaries. Egg harvesting is physically dangerous for women. Risks include blood clots, kidney and liver damage, future infertility and death.
Adult stem cell research is ethical and proven.
Harvesting adult stem cells does not harm the donor and decreases the possibility of immune rejection since the cells come from the patient. Adult stem cell research has already produced more than 70 therapies and cures for diseases including leukemia, sickle cell anemia, and multiple sclerosis, as well as treatments for acute heart damage, bone repair and spinal cord injury
In November 2007 scientists revealed that a new direction in stem cell research showed great promise. Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) are cells that possess the same pluripotent characteristics of embryonic stem cells, but they are not obtained from embryos and don’t involve cloning or eggs harvested from women. IPSCs are obtained by taking an ordinary somatic (body) cell, such as a skin cell, and reprogramming it to an embryonic-like pluripotent state. The somatic cell is induced to become a pluripotent cell, much like a computer is reprogrammed to run a different program. (stemcellresearch.org)
James Thompson, author of one of the two papers first describing the iPS cell procedure, and the first scientist to isolate human embryonic stem cells, has said that iPS cells “meet the defining criteria” of embryonic stem cells, but “with the significant exception that the iPS cells are not derived from embryos. Similar to human embryonic stem cells, human iPS cells should prove useful for studying the development and function of human tissues, for discovering and testing new drugs, and for transplantation medicine…with the exception of autoimmune diseases, patient-specific iPS cell lines should largely eliminate the concern of immune rejection.” (Science, 21 December 2007).
Quotes in Order of Preference
“The being that is now you or me is the same being that was once an adolescent, and before that a toddler, and before that an infant, and before that a fetus, and before that an embryo. To have destroyed the being that is you or me at any one of these stages would have been to destroy you or me.” Dr. Robert George, Professor – Princeton University
“Cloning is an evil; and cloning for the purposes of research actually exacerbates the evil by countenancing the willful destruction of nascent human life. Moreover, it proposes doing this on a mass scale, as an institutionalized and routinized undertaking to extract medical benefits for those who have greater power. It is slavery plus abortion.”
Diana J. Schaub, Ph.D., Member of the President’s Council on Bioethics
“Modern genetics reveals a fundamental biological fraternity among all men. It is under this heading that the [human] embryo merits unconditional respect. To measure one’s respect according to the age or weight of the fetus opens the door to all kinds of monstrosities.” Jean-Marie Le Mene, President of the Jerome LeJeune Foundation
“Human cloning – for any purpose- is an enormously troubling development in biotechnology. It is unethical in itself and dangerous as a precedent…It is also a giant step toward a society in which life is created for convenience, human beings are grown for spare body parts, and children are engineered to fit eugenic specification. We cannot allow human life to be devalued this way.” United States’ Statement on Cloning to the United Nations, February 2002
To increase respect for human life at its earliest stage, the Respect Life Apostolate offers the Rosary Crusade to Safeguard Embryonic Human Life.