Embryonic Stem Cell Therapy
Below is a link showing a side-by-side comparison of illnesses successfully treated by adult stem cells and embryonic stem cells. As you can see, the list of conditions treated by adult stem cells is very extensive, while embryonic stem cell therapy has not treated anything!
Blood disorders, cancers, auto-immune diseases, and neurological illnesses are just some of the numerous conditions that have been successfully treated with adult stem cells. In fact, adult stem cell therapy has helped to treat nearly 100 different illnesses thus far, and continues to impress medical researchers. Yet, it was not all that long ago when headlines were saturated by the promises of embryonic stem cell therapy. The topic was even in the national spotlight at one point. Embryonic stem cells were considered one of the greatest breakthroughs yet, according to some in the medical community. The reality, however, is that embryonic stem cell therapy has failed to live up to its potential, while adult stem cell therapy has flourished. The enthusiasm for embryonic stem cell research has diminished somewhat in recent years, in part thanks to two critical questions: Is it effective? And is it ethical? The answer to both of these questions is no.
What are embryonic stem cells?
Embryonic stem cells are a specific type of stem cell extracted from an embryo in the earliest days after conception (usually 3-6 days). At this stage of development, the embryo is composed of about 100-150 cells, many of which are stem cells, meaning they are undifferentiated. Embryonic stem cells are unique because of their potential to become all types of cells in the body (i.e. they are not yet committed to a particular cell type). In embryonic stem cell therapy, there is a finite window of time during which the stem cells are harvested, while the embryo itself is discarded.
What is the difference between embryonic and adult stem cell therapy?
The main difference between an adult stem cell and an embryonic stem cell is age. The adult stem cell has been given time to mature, while the embryonic stem cell has not. Usually, after the first 7 days most stem cells have reached maturity, meaning they have a more limited differentiation potential than embryonic stem cells. For example, a blood stem cell can become another type of blood cell, but it cannot be converted into a brain cell or a bone cell. The pluripotency of embryonic stem cells is the main appeal to medical researchers. They have potential to become any type of cell in the human body. Unfortunately, this cannot be done without destroying the embryo, which contains the blueprints for life. An underdeveloped person is still a person!
Is it effective?
Thus far, adult stem cell therapy has proven much more effective than stem cells extracted from embryos. Unlike embryonic stem cell therapy, adult stem cells have proven their value with a track record of successful treatment of numerous diseases and illnesses. Embryonic stem cell potential has yet to deliver beyond a “promise”.
Human stem cells are derived either directly from their “parent” adult cells, or from the umbilical cord of the mother during pregnancy. Both adult cells and cord cells are rich sources of stem cells that are advantageous over embryonic stem cells for two reasons. Primarily, there is a stronger DNA match, especially with adult cells that are taken from the very person being treated. This decreases the chances of rejection by the immune system. Also, cord cells are numerous and can be removed and stored in advance before birth, which offers a strong likelihood of DNA match, as well as a superior extraction process.
Is it ethical?
All of us began as an embryo. From the moment of conception, a human embryo exhibits certain features of life, such as having its own unique DNA. Therefore, for those who value and respect life, using stem cells from embryos is not an option, since it always results in the destruction of the embryo. In essence, it is creating life to destroy life, which ignores the dignity of the person created.
Furthermore, embryonic stem cells have proven to increase cancer risk. They are more likely to grow into cancer cells or produce tumors. One particular medical study showed that mice treated for Parkinson’s by using embryonic stem cells died from brain tumors in 20 percent of the cases.
There is also a risk that embryonic stem cells will be attacked by the recipient’s immune system, since there is no guarantee of a genetic match. This is not the case with procedures that use adult stem cells to treat illness.
Clowes, B. (2013, May 20). Confused About Stem Cell Research? A Pro-Life Primer. Retrieved from: http://www.lifenews.com/2013/05/20/confused-about-stem-cell-research-a-pro-life-primer/
Pros and Cons of Stem Cell Research. (n.d.) Retrieved from: http://www.allaboutpopularissues.org/pros-and-cons-of-stem-cell-research.htm
Stem Cell Research Treatments. (n.d.). Retrieved from: http://www.stemcellresearch.org/stem-cell-research-treatments/