Brittni Young/Web Editor
Stem cell research has become the next advancement in health and science technology since the low success rate of gene replacement therapy according to Dr. Zaldy Doyungan, Assistant Professor of the Department of Natural Sciences.
The use of stem cell therapy has been debated against by the Catholic Church and pro life supporters bringing controversy to the advancing research. Dr. Zaldy Doyungan, simplified stem cell research as any scientific investigation involving the use of undifferentiated cells (stem cells) for the treatment of certain human diseases.
According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), the nation’s medical research agency, scientists use two classes of stem cells from animals and humans, adult stem cells and embryonic stem cells. “Adult stem cells are committed to become adult structures. For instance, the skin stem cells will eventually develop into skin cells only, while bone marrow stem cells will form blood cells,” said Doyungan.
“Embryonic stem cells could be either totipotent stem cells (capable of generating an entire embryo) or pluripotent stem cells (capable of generating many different adult structures); depending on the stage of embryonic development (or age of the embryo) the stem cells are harvested,” He said. Researches performed by scientists of the NIH have found evidence that adult stem cells may not have the same capacity to multiply as embryonic stem cells do.
Adult stem cells have found to contain more DNA abnormalities caused by sunlight, toxins and errors in making more DNA copies during the course of a lifetime. These potential weaknesses might limit the usefulness of adult stem cells. The NIH scientist have also said that Pluripotent stem cells offer the possibility of a renewable source of replacement cells and tissues to treat a myriad of diseases, conditions, and disabilities including Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, spinal cord injury, burns, heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis.
English and Philosophy professor Maria Hollendonner said, “The church views all human life as equally valuable and if human life starts at conception then they would argue that it is not right to destroy an embryo.” Pope John Paul II said embryonic stem-cell research is related to abortion, euthanasia and other attacks on innocent life. The Catholic Church is against embryonic stem-cell research because it involves the destruction of human embryos.
The U.S. Bishops published a document in June 2008 titled “On Embryonic Stem-Cell Research: A Statement of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.” The document states, “There is no moral objection to research and therapy of this kind, when it involves no harm to human beings at any stage of development and is conducted with appropriate informed consent…Catholic foundations and medical centers have been, and will continue to be, among the leading supporters of ethically responsible advances in the medical use of adult stem cells.”
Doyungan said those who are in favor of stem cell research are banking on the unlimited potential stem cell therapy has to offer in the treatment of human diseases, and therefore, consequently in alleviating human sufferings. He is also a supporter of stem cell therapy especially the use of embryonic stem cells.
“More embryos are generated in the test tube than the actual number that is implanted into the ‘mothers’ womb,” He said speaking about fertility clinics. “The extra embryos are frozen, and if these are not used within a certain period of time and are not implanted to interested takers, these embryos will be destroyed. To me, instead of dumping the embryos to the trash, why not use them for stem cell research?”