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The Truth About Stem Cell Research

Editor   |   April 01, 1999

There’s some confusion in the public arena about stem cells and their potential for healing the human body. Let’s try to simplify things. Since 1995, Congress has prohibited the use of federal funds (1) to create human embryos for research purposes and (2) for “research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed, discarded or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death…” The ban was enacted in reaction to morally objectionable proposals for embryo research made in 1994 by the NIH’s Human Embryo Research Panel.

Notwithstanding the law banning federal funding of such research, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and several US biotechnology companies are drumming up support for research which involves killing human embryos to obtain their stem cells.

Stem cells are available from two locations. One is from the core of a one-week-old embryonic human being. The other source is from umbilical cord blood at delivery time. Both are called stem cells.

The cord blood stem cells can theoretically develop into only a few types of organs. These kinds of stem cells, of course, can be obtained quite ethically.

The other stem cell is totipotent. This means they can theoretically grow into any of the organs of the body. Because of this, there’s much more interest in this second type of stem cell.

What is important to note is that this type of totipotent stem cell is obtained from the core of a blastocyst. This is the stage of human development when the tiny embryo is about one week old. He or she has a shell that resembles a mulberry. In the center of that mulberry are the stem cells that researchers want. In order to obtain these stem cells, this one-week-old living human must be directly killed.

Our federal officials are now saying that it is permissible to do research on blastocyst stem cells. The reason they give is that these cells are not a human being, but rather only parts of a human, and therefore they can be experimented on. What they are not admitting is the obvious, and that is how they obtained them. You can get these only by directly killing a living one-week-old human being. Accordingly, pro-life people totally oppose such killing.


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