Monday, November 29, 2004

An Ethical Alternative To Embryonic Stem Cells

Stem cells isolated from umbilical cord blood have emerged as an ethical and safe alternative to embryonic stem cells.
In today's Yahoo New, an article about a South Korean woman with spinal cord injury has been able to walk after 20 years. She still required a support device, but was able to get out of her wheelchair and take a few steps. This is truly an important milestone in stem cell research since it was cord blood from which the stem cells used in her therapy were obtained.
"Technical difficulties exist in isolating stem cells from frozen umbilical cord blood, finding cells with genes matching those of the recipient and selecting the right place of the body to deliver the cells," said Han Hoon, president of Histostem, a government-backed umbilical cord blood bank in Seoul.

Ethical considerations have kept me from unequivocally endorsing embryonic stem cell research. Although the field offers some promise of mitigating many human ills, the destruction of an embryo troubles me. In addition, everything I have read on the subject reports embryonic stem cells have a tendency to form tumors when injected into animals or human beings.


  1. I've also heard that. I read that one of the biggest problems they are having with embryonic stem cell researh is that a lot of the cells that grow are cancer cells.

  2. One of these days, I am going to have to sit down and really research all this stem cell business. I have to admit, I find a lot of it confusing.

    While I am very much against abortion, sometimes I wonder if creating stem cells might be a good thing if it would come through on its promise to cure many illnesses. Is it the same as abortion? I don't know enough about it to form a solid opinion.

    But I do know that if this woman, who was paralyzed for 20 years, is now walking again thanks to some kind of stem cell research... to see the tears of joy running down her face, might make me lean a little in favor of this. Especially if it was simply used from blood derived from a cord of a baby that was born and not from an aborted fetus or something.


  3. HI, I found your blog by way of "Patty-Jo." I am also an RN! I have done alot of reading both from a medical perspective as well as from a Christian perspective. I am against ESCR totally because of my relgious and moral values. However, someone, another blogger, that I argue with frequently said to me that you cannot be morally for IVF and morally against ESCR. (keep in mind my husband and I went through infertility and were all for IVF at the time.) I set out on a quest to find out more at that time. There is an adoption process for embryo's but alas, not enough parents for the # of embryo's left over from IVF. I am all for medical advances but my big issue was this--how is it (ESCR) different from abortion which we all harp about, especially Christian conservatives (which is what I am) and be for IVF which produces left over embryo's (and to me, life begins at conception?) Needless to say, I had to change my stance on IVF until there is a way to not destroy the left over embryo's which I don't see happening. I also read you can get stem cells from fat tissue (they can borrow some of mine if they want to) and from the placenta. I would like to see more staunch evidence of positive medical advances in this ...but would never endorse anything that kills teh embryo's...great blog by the way!!

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  5. I pulled this from the site for a moment so I could correct one word. Nothing like doing too many things at once.

    Here's a pretty good site for research on this topic at NIH:

    They have a "basics" article here:
    This article is pretty well written and does a really good job of not being argumentative.

    I come from a technical/scientific background and it is worth mentioning that taking away any form of research will significantly hinder progress in that area, even if some are convinced that another form of research will be just as good (such as umbilical cords). So much of research is simply being curious about science and nature and seeing what is discovered in the process. This isn't a good reason to allow it, just an understanding for what is lost by not allowing it.

    I also hope that there isn't anyone out there arguing that stem cell technology is at a state where it could be used reliably without causing serious side-effects. This is why many are proposing using federal funds for the research at all. If the technology didn't have its share of problems that needed to be worked out, the private industry would be more than happy to start working on it in the hopes of making a profit on it.

    The heart-warming story about the South Korean woman gives us hope, not proof, that this technology will be able to be used reliably in this way some day.