Where can stem cells be found besides embryos?

Stem cells can be found in the adult organism (“adult” referring to humans or animals any point after birth). In the adult organism, stem cells are found in the bone marrow, blood stream, brain, spinal cord, dental pulp, skeletal muscle, skin, gastrointestinal tract, cornea, retina, liver, and pancreas. Another rich source of stem cells is the blood within umbilical cords and placentas no longer needed by newborn babies after the babies’ births. New research shows that human fat contains stem cells as well. To see recent federal legislation that promotes the saving of umbilical cord blood for stem cells, click here.

In adult stem cell research, no human being dies when cells are collected. This makes it perfectly ethical to use adult stem cells for scientific research. There have been many documented clinical successes of diseases cured with adult stem cells. To find many scientific articles on the advances of adult stem cells, do a Google search for the words “adult stem cells.

Is the enthusiasm for embryonic stem cell research justified?

Human embryonic stem cells (ESCs) have not yet successfully treated any disease. Currently, the National Institutes of Health says that, “any therapies based on the use of human ES cells are still hypothetical and highly experimental.” Scientists are still figuring out how to induce the cells to change into particular types of cells. Other problems the researchers have encountered include: the tendency of ESCs to form tumors when they are transplant into a patient, unstable expression of traits contained in the cells’ genes, immune rejection, and the risk of passing animal viruses to humans because formulas of animal cells are used to keep ESC lines growing.

What is the current state of research on adult stem cells?

Doctors already use adult stem cells to treat a host of human diseases, including cancers, autoimmune diseases, stroke, cartilage and bone damage, and blood and liver disease. Scientists are continually discovering new capabilities of adult stem cells. For example, using mice and rats, scientists have re-grown nerve cells, reversed diabetes, and repaired hearts damaged by heart attacks. There is also evidence of a universal adult stem cell that can change into any cell of the body.

Despite the reported “promise” of embryonic stem cells, stem cells from adults are the ones that have been delivering true therapy. Dr. Donald Orlic of the National Human Genome Research Institute states, “We are currently finding that these adult stem cells can function as well, perhaps even better than embryonic stem cells.”

For a detailed Stem Cell Research Fact Sheet click here to go to the National Right to Life’s Fact Sheet site.

Further research on stem cells can be found at the following links:

National Right to Life on Cloning and Fetus Farming: http://www.nrlc.org/Killing_Embryos

Do No Harm; A coalition of Americans for Research Ethics: http://www.stemcellresearch.org

Stem Cell News: http://www.stemcellnews.com/diseases.htm

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: http://www.usccb.org/comm/archives/2004/04-163.htm

The Political Science of Stem Cells: http://www.stemcellresearch.org/polisci/index.html

The National Catholic Bioethics Center: http://www.ncbcenter.org

The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity http://www.cbhd.org