In this issue . . .
Q: Should we fund embryonic stem cell research?
A: The scientific and ethical debate regarding the use of stem cells in medical research has been raging for over a decade. With President Obama reversing the previous administration’s limits on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, this debate can only intensify in the months and years upcoming.
At the heart of this debate is something called a stem cell. Simply put, stem cells are the types of cells from which all the different tissues of the body are derived. To understand this, just picture what happens when a sperm fertilizes an egg. There is initially one cell; that cell divides into two cells; those two become four; and so on. From these first few cells, over 200 different tissue types in the body are made. These initial cells are called stem cells, and they have the ability to change into the various tissues required as the embryo develops. This process of stem cells turning into more specialized tissue is called differentiation.
As stem cells mature, they become more specialized. As a result of this process, the number of different tissues into which a stem cell can transform becomes limited. That is, after a certain point a stem cell may no longer be able to give rise to nerve cells or skin cells but may be able to produce blood cells or pancreatic cells. This loss of ability to differentiate is one of the key arguments in the debate over stem cell research.
The two primary types of stem cells involved in this field of research are embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells. Embryonic stem cells are derived from embryos (typically four to five days old). A ball of cells called a blastocyst is disrupted, and the embryonic cells are harvested. These cells grow rapidly and have the potential to transform into any cell type in the body.
Adult stem cells are found in virtually every tissue in the body. However, they are found in relatively small numbers in these tissues. Generally, they only make the cells specific to the area in which they are located. These cells grow less rapidly in laboratory culture than embryonic stem cells (but this is not the disadvantage it appears to be—embryonic stem cells can grow so rapidly that they can be difficult to control). Theoretically, adult stem cells have less potential to produce all the needed cell types required for adequate medical research.
Read the rest of Dr. Tommy Mitchell’s examination of The Debate over Stem Cells.
News to Note Quick Look
Imagine less “religion”: A new poll conducted by Connecticut’s Trinity College resoundingly confirms our answer to what Ken Ham has asked audiences for years: is America growing more Christian or less? Read more.
Scientists “see” God: Scientists are once again reporting how the brain processes religion—or does it simply create it? Read more.
Also: Santino the Frustrated Chimp; a change we can’t believe in; as opposed to dead evolution?; “some religion here”; and don’t miss . . . . Read more.
View the current prayer requests to keep track of and pray for current ministry needs. Thank you!
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