On the heels of President Barack Obama’s March 9 order to use public monies to support embryonic stem cell research,1 another source of stem cells has become available—blood. Blood would be an ideal supplier for stem cells because it is a renewable tissue and harvesting blood components does not end life. These reengineered cells would also be patient-specific and avoid immune system difficulties, unlike embryonic sources which are derived from another person entirely.
A recent study discovered a way in which blood could generate stem cells.2 The researchers isolated CD34+ cells, which normally mature into blood cells. They then infected the cells with viruses that carry specific reprogramming factors. This caused the cells to become pluripotent, meaning they can then develop as they divide into other kinds of cells to aid in finding better treatments and research techniques.3
Like most recent breakthroughs in stem cell research and treatments, this discovery came from non-embryonic sources.4 Prior studies have demonstrated that adult stem cells can be effective in treating diseases. Now, adult stem cells from blood promise to become even more easily and repeatedly available, reducing the cost of medical procedures, enhancing the “pace of laboratory research in this field,”2 and curtailing any perceived need to use embryos for this purpose.
Once stem cells become available from the blood of the patient, there should be very little, if any, interest in embryonic stem cells as sources of replacement cells for diseased tissues. Embryos have produced no viable treatments to date, whereas non-embryonic sources have given rise to over 70 effective treatments.5 If there is no medical necessity for the planned destruction of human embryos, why are some researchers still insistently promoting this practice?
According to standard polls, the same scientific community that is politically active in supporting embryonic research is much more atheistic than the American public.6 Atheism does not perceive humans as unique creations who should be valued in their own right as being made in the image of God. If the desires of embryonic research proponents become reality, then they may be found in the ironic position of using money borrowed from a future generation to tinker with the bodies of those who will never grow up to join that generation.
- Ford, L. Obama Orders the Destruction of Human Embryos. ICR News. Posted on icr.org March 13, 2009, accessed April 21, 2009.
- Study Finds Blood Cells Can Be Reprogrammed to Act as Embryonic Stem Cells. American Society of Hematology press release, April 20, 2009, reporting on research published in Loh, Y.-H. et al. Generation of induced pluripotent stem cells from human blood. Blood. Prepublished online on bloodjournal.hematologylibrary.org March 18, 2009.
- Thomas, B. A New Technique for Pluripotent Stem Cells. ICR News. Posted on icr.org March 16, 2009, accessed April 21, 2009.
- Thomas, B. Better Treatments Will Stem from New Cell Lines. ICR News. Posted on icr.org August 13, 2008, accessed April 21, 2009.
- Thomas, B. Understanding the Stem Cell Debate. ICR News. Posted on icr.org July 10, 2008, accessed April 21, 2009.
- Guliuzza, R. 2009. Consensus Science: The Rise of a Scientific Elite. Acts & Facts. 38 (5): 4-6.
* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research.
Article posted on May 6, 2009.