Stem cells are the basic building blocks of physiological tissue: they are cells not yet differentiated into specific types of tissue. Adult stem cells are multipotent, meaning that they have the potential to become many types of tissue. Scientists believe that adult stem cells roam the body seeking to repair or replace damaged cells. For medical research, adult stem cells can be taken from myriad sources: umbilical cord blood, placentas, skin, bone marrow, and more. When adult stem cells are removed, no innocent human life is taken, unlike in the case of embryonic stem cell research.
Adult stem cells are versatile, although they had not been thought to be able to become every type of tissue in the body. In 2007, Prof. Shinya Yamanaka at Kyoto University in Japan conducted referred to as “dedifferentiation.” This new, more promising research creates embryo-like stem cells without human eggs and without creating and destroying human cloned embryos. He has successfully transformed skin cells into what seem to be versatile stem cells; these cells are called “induced pluripotent stem cells” (iPS) and exhibit the typical activity seen in embryonic stem cells.
Adult Stem Cell Breakthroughs
In 1998, stem cells were discovered in adults. Although practically ignored by the media until recently, new adult stem cell research has proven itself effective in many cases, including:
- Pancreatic islet cells from a cadaver were transplanted into a diabetic man, who now no longer needs insulin shots;
- An 18-year-old woman from California whose spinal cord was severed has regained some use of her legs, toes, and bladder from white blood cell therapy;
- Umbilical cord blood stem cells were used to cure three boys with defective immune systems;
- A 2-year-old boy from California who suffered from cerebral palsy has improved drastically and may be cured after receiving a cord blood stem cell transplant;
- A Canadian woman with multiple sclerosis received a transfusion of her own bone marrow stem cells and was then able to walk unassisted, think clearly, and care for herself (which she could not do before the transfusion);
- This March, Family Research Council brought three individuals to Washington, DC to testify in favor of adult stem cell research. Barry Goudy, a man with multiple sclerosis who could barely walk, testified that he was cured by adult stem cell therapy. Amy Daniels had scleroderma (a rare autoimmune disease that affects connective tissue in the body) but was successfully treated with her own stem cells. Jill Rosen had lupus and, after her adult stem cell treatment, was relieved of most of her symptoms.
With so many effective treatments from adult stem cells already in use and new ones being discovered constantly, the need and desire for embryonic stem cell research should diminish. Pro-Life advocates must promote the life-affirming alternatives offered by adult stem cell research.