George A. Sprecace M.D., J.D., F.A.C.P. and Allergy Associates of New London, P.C.

Point and Counterpoint: Abortion and Alternatives - Article 32, for Sunday, January 6, 2008

Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Normally, human life begins when a human sperm fertilizes a human ovum.  This fertilized ovum is a complete human being, possessing all the means necessary to develop to old age, given the proper care. The intervening lifetime is characterized by a continuing series of cell divisions beginning early on with stem cells, whose function it is to generate all the various cell types which constitute the body.  Human embryonic stem cell (HESC) research currently uses cells from an embryo 4-5 days of age. Their removal kills the embryo, an innocent human being at an early stage of development.  This is,  therefore, morally wrong.  The science is without question.  Scientists in in vitro fertilization clinics and their clients will tell you that the 5 day old embryo is a live human being and that the parents will call it their baby, their child, and will seek to implant it in the mother’s womb to continue its life.  They will mourn its death at any stage of development.  The proponents of human embryonic stem cell research know the facts also, but they claim that the therapies which might come from this work are the ends which justify the killing of these human embryos.  Presently, adult stem cells are used to treat many afflictions, but there are no proven indications for embryonic stem cells.  The great challenge in this field today is determining how to make stem or other cells from other than living embryos differentiate into the desired cell types for therapeutic indications.  Only this past Thanksgiving week, in work heralded throughout the scientific and lay press, Wisconsin investigators reported transforming adult human skin cells into cells akin to HESC.  This promises to eliminate the use of human embryos to obtain their stem cells, and has the very great advantage of eliminating concerns of tissue rejection…since the cell donor can also be the patient.  Simultaneously, Japanese scientists used similar techniques to obtain comparable results with mouse cells. Only two weeks later investigators at the Whitehead Institute (MA), in conjunction with others at the U. of Alabama, reported that they had taken skin cells from mice affected with sickle cell anemia and caused these cells to differentiate into normal bone marrow stem cells.  When injected back into these same anemic mice, these new cells took residence in the bone marrow and produced normal (not sickle) red blood cells, demonstrating the therapeutic potential of the technique.  The advances in this field of science are occurring with astounding rapidity and support the medical dictum: “Do no harm.”  It is wrong to kill human embryos.

Peter Moore, PhD                                 George A. Sprecace, M.D., J.D.

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