Stem-Cell Research

When embryonic stem cells were first isolated in the late 1990's, researchers touted them as the next big thing in the world of regenerative medicine. 

Yet, as the research has unfolded over the last decade, just the opposite has taken place. Despite the continued push by some researchers and politicians, the reality is life-destroying embryonic stem-cell research continues to be a dead end.

The unpredictable, tumor-forming nature of embryonic stem cells continues to be a roadblock for researchers. In contrast, adult- stem cells, which are ethically derived from a variety of life-affirming sources, have proven to be the real answer to many diseases. 

These two predominant types of stem cell research are radically different in the way they work.  In order to gather embryonic stem cells, the cells must be collected from a young human embryo.  The process of collecting these cells always results in the destruction of that young human life. 

On the contrary, adult stem cells do not require the  killing of a human life.  Better termed "non-embryonic" stem cells, adult stem cells can be gathered from a variety of different sources including bone marrow, blood, fat tissue, nasal cavity tissue, and even umbilical cord blood.

To date, more than 70 diseases or conditions — including cancer, lupus, heart disease, Crohn's disease, sickle-cell anemia and spinal-cord injuries — have been successfully treated using adult stem cells.

The hopes for embryonic stem-cell research came to a screeching halt in 2007, when researchers discovered a way to take ordinary body cells, such as a skin cell, and transform them into embryonic-like stem cells. Now, research can be done on these induced pluripotent cells — that act like embryonic cells — without destroying life. 

Since then, advances continue to be made using non-embryonic sources of stem cells and we continue to see the use of these cells to treat thousands of patients suffering from dozens of diseases and conditions.

Without a doubt, the advances in technology — with both ultrasound and ethical stem-cell research — have clearly helped advance a more life-affirming perspective in this country. But, as we see technology encouraging a pro-life ethic, we would be remiss not to remember the heart behind what we do: Showing love and compassion to those facing unexpected pregnancies and life-altering diseases.

This article originally appeared in Citizen magazine’s June/July 2010 edition. Copyright © 2013 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved.