Stem Cells are very primitive cells, as yet undifferentiated, from which all of the organs of the body develop.
Two types are being investigated.
- Adult stem cells taken from the donor, cultured and returned to the donor.
- Embryonic stem cells taken from another human (an embryo), cultured and used to treat the already born human.
Advantages of Adult Stem Cells:
Adult stem cells are plentiful in bone marrow, cord blood and many other organs. In recent years there have been dozens of research reports of successful use of these in treatment of a variety of pathological conditions, e.g., diabetes. Such use is ethical and promises to be a great boon to mankind.
Embryonic stem cells are obtained from four-day-old living human embryos. This tiny human is cut open and embryonic stem cells are extracted from him or her. The process directly kills a four-day-old human. Because of this direct killing, the method of “harvesting” these cells has been roundly condemned by traditional ethicists.
Advantages of Embryonic Stem Cells:
- Some researchers claim that these cells are more primitive and therefore will more easily be grown into various organs.
- They are available from surplus frozen IVF embryos.
- They are so primitive that the host recipient will probably not reject them.
Disadvantages of Embryonic Stem Cells:
- They are more “plastic” and easily (and as yet uncontrollably) grow wild into multi-organ tissues e.g. skin, bone, etc., in tumors.
- They can carry virus infection from the donor humans, through their original sperm or ovum.
- They are another human’s tissue and can be rejected like other transplanted organs.
So far, unlike adult stem cells, there are almost no reports of their use for successful treatments.
The use of adult stem cells is ethical and beneficial. Obtaining and using embryonic stem cells is unethical, as it requires the direct killing of an innocent human in the so-far not realized hope of benefiting another.