New developments in stem cell research have set the stage for scientists to investigate treatments for specific diseases—investigations that won’t require the destruction of human embryos.
A suite of newly-developed stem cell lines has been produced to enable researchers to specifically investigate 10 different diseases, including juvenile diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.1 Researchers will be able to use these human cells, which can grow indefinitely in tissue cultures in the laboratory, to analyze pharmaceuticals or other potential treatments. This reduces the need to test drugs on living people and can greatly speed up the rate of product testing and development.
Dr. George Q. Daley of Harvard Stem Cell Institute and his colleagues helped to develop this new collection of disease-specific stem cell lines. They used the induced pluripotent stem cell (iPS) technique, which involves harvesting a matured stem cell—such as a basal skin cell—and then engineering its DNA so that it reverts back to being pluripotent (i.e., able to unfold into different tissues).
These new stem cell lines are additional examples of the dramatic success that researchers have had in using mature stem cells as their starting material. Such cells—unlike embryonic stem cells—are obtained without harming the donor. Embryonic stem cells have yielded no useful cell lines, let alone viable treatments. Furthermore, when embryos are harvested for medical research, their lives are ended. They are treated as merely chemical objects, rather than nascent people with their own unique DNA and human identity.
This attitude, that people are just soulless particles, has been responsible for too much death already, as “atheist regimes have in a single century murdered more than one hundred million people.”2 A scriptural understanding of humans is that they have real yet immaterial qualities like mind, will, emotions, and spirit.3 Thus, these new stem cell lines will help reduce suffering while respecting the value inherent in each person as having been made in God’s image.4
- Colen, B. D. Daley and colleagues create 20 disease-specific stem cell lines. Posted on HarvardScience.Harvard.edu August 7, 2008, accessed August 8, 2008.
- D’Souza, D. 2007. What’s So Great About Christianity. Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, 214.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24; Genesis 2:7.
- Genesis 1:26-27.
* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer.
Article posted on August 13, 2008.