Clearly Caring Christian Life Resources
Home Edition 2011 Volume 31 / Number 2
Stem Cells â€“
Promising Research for Everyone but Embryos
Basic Terminology on Stem Cell Research
For It or Against It?
Also... News & Views
10 Creating a Market
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Clearly Caring – Home Edition Christian Life Resources
Stem Cells – Promising Research for Everyone but Embryos 2011
Basic Terminology on Stem Cell Research Pastor Robert Fleischmann
Volume 31 / Number 2
For It or Against It? Pastor Robert Fleischmann
Creating a Market for Embryos Pastor Robert Fleischmann
News & Views | 11
In This Issue Stem cell research, the so-called new frontier in biomedical research, is considered by some scientists as the “holy grail” in curing all that afflicts us. Yet we are saturated with hype, hope, potential, exaggerations and misinformation. A Google search for the phrase, “stem cell,” yields nearly 30 million results! It is an exciting field of research – about as close to the “salamander’s tail” as we humans can get. Promising to regenerate lost, severed or damaged organs and tissue, stem cell research could be a wonderful salve for people’s ailments. Tragically, amidst the hype we find considerable confusion, double-speak and distortion peppered with a good dose of emotionalism. Wheeling the quadriplegic onto a stage, running the commercial of the heartbroken parent caring for a seriously-ill child, and hearing the desperate pleas of an adult caring for a parent whose mind is slipping away – these sad glimpses of people in need certainly tug at the heartstrings as one considers the possibilities and promise of stem cell research. What is often lost in the rhetoric is the clear and careful revelation of what happens when such research takes place. Many people do not know stem cell research comes in “three flavors,” and one type of research requires the sacrifice of a baby’s life in the embryonic stage of development. Many also do not know stem cell research, despite its great hope in addressing many ailments, is not the “cure” for all such disease. This special issue of Clearly Caring digs into the issue and hopefully provides you, the reader, with clear, simple and honest information about stem cell research. Using the Word of God we will celebrate the good work that is not only being done but can result from the efforts. We will also criticize the evil being done in the name of this research. Our goal is to better educate the public which, in turn, can lead to more ethical research, quicker pathways to progress, and a nation that values human life in all of its stages.
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Basic Terminology on Stem Cell Research by Pastor Robert Fleischmann
As with most professions, medicine uses many unfamiliar or complicated terms. The following is designed to help you understand some of the terminology used in discussions about stem cell research. Most are adapted from those found on the National Institute of Health website, as well as various medical and related research sites.
Chromosomes – A structure consisting of DNA and regulatory proteins found in the nucleus of the cell. The DNA in the nucleus is usually divided among several chromosomes. The number of chromosomes in the nucleus varies depending on the species of the organism. Humans inherit 46 chromosomes, one set of 23 from the mother and one set of 23 from the father. Cloning – The method used to generate either identical copies of a region of a DNA molecule or genetically-identical copies of a cell, or organism.
Blastocyst – Following fertilization of the egg (ovum), the early stage of life consisting of about 150 cells (about five days after fertilization). The blastocyst is a sphere made up of an outer layer of cells (the trophoblast), a fluid-filled cavity (the blastocoel), and a cluster of cells on the interior (the inner cell mass). Embryonic stem cell research requires the interruption of the developing new life by extracting the inner cell mass.
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Reproductive Cloning – Cloning performed for the specific purpose of creating a replica of the original. As it relates to human beings it is the science of creating a second genetic duplicate of the original. In reproductive cloning the intent is to permit the developing life to live a normal life cycle. The first successful reproductive cloning produced Dolly the sheep in 1996.
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Therapeutic Cloning – Identical in process and procedure as reproductive cloning except the intent is to interrupt the process, generally at the blastocyst stage, for the purpose of extracting the inner cell mass (embryonic stem cells).
of the blastocyst stage into an embryo containing all three primary germ layers.
Culture – The liquid that covers cells in a laboratory dish containing nutrients to nourish and support the cells. The culture medium may also include growth factors added to produce desired changes in the cells.
Germ Layers – After the blastocyst stage of embryonic development, the inner cell mass of the blastocyst undergoes gastrulation, a period when the inner cell mass becomes organized into three distinct cell layers, called germ layers. The three layers include the ectoderm (leading to the development of the brain and nervous system along with the outer skin layer, hair, nails, etc.), the mesoderm (leading to the development of muscle tissue, the outer covering of internal organs, gonads, the excretory system, the inner skin layer, bones and cartilage, and the circulatory system), and the endoderm (leading to the development of the inner linings of the digestive and respiratory tracks, along with the development of glands such as the liver and pancreas).
Gene – A functional unit of heredity that is a segment of DNA found on chromosomes in the cell’s nucleus. Genes direct the formation of an enzyme or other protein.
Differentiation – The process whereby an unspecialized embryonic cell acquires the features of a specialized cell, such as a heart, liver, or muscle cell. Differentiation is controlled by the interaction of a cell’s genes with the physical and chemical conditions outside the cell, usually through signaling pathways involving proteins embedded in the cell surface. Related to this process is “directed differentiation” in which scientists manipulate the stem cell culture conditions to induce differentiation into a particular cell type.
In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) – A technique that unites the egg and sperm in a laboratory rather than in a female’s womb. Presently, embryonic stem cell research uses embryos created by this process.
DNA – Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), a chemical found primarily in the nucleus of cells. DNA carries the instructions or blueprint to make all the structures and materials the body needs to function.
Multipotent Cells – Types of cells capable of developing into more than one cell type of the body. Rather than typically giving rise to all of the cells of the body, these cells are capable of giving rise only to a few types of cells that develop into a specific tissue or organ. Adult stem cells are considered multipotent.
Embryo – In humans, the developing organism from the time of fertilization until the end of the eighth week of gestation, when it is called a fetus. Fetus – In humans, the developing human from about eight weeks after conception until the time of its birth.
Pluripotent Cells – Types of cells able to give rise to all of the various cell types of the body. Stem cells extracted from embryos are considered pluripotent.
Gastrulation – The process in which cells proliferate and migrate within the embryo to transform the inner cell mass C l ear ly C arin g
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Regenerative Medicine – Field of medicine devoted to treatments in which stem cells are induced to differentiate into the specific cell type required to repair damaged or destroyed cell populations or tissues. Regenerative medicine essentially focuses on stem cell research.
the uterine lining. These cells are capable of dividing without differentiation for a prolonged period in culture and are known to develop into cells and tissues of the three primary germ layers. Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSC) – A type of pluripotent stem cell, similar to an embryonic stem cell, formed by the introduction of certain embryonic genes into a somatic (adult) cell. This type of research does not require the destruction of human life in the embryonic stage. Recent progress has been made by converting skin cells to have pluripotent characteristics.
Stem Cells – Cells with the ability to divide for indefinite periods in culture and to give rise to specialized cells. Adult Stem Cells – Also known as somatic [body] cells. An undifferentiated cell found in many organs and differentiated tissues with a limited capacity for both self-renewal (in the laboratory) and differentiation. Such cells vary in their differentiation capacity though is usually limited to cell types in the organ of origin.
Totipotent Cells – Types of cells with the ability to give rise to all the cell types of the body including all of the cell types that make up the tissues and membranes to protect the embryo and provide nutrition within the womb, such as the placenta. A totipotent cell has the capacity to form an entire organism. Human development begins when a sperm fertilizes an egg and creates a single totipotent cell.
Cord Blood Stem Cells – Also known as umbilical cord blood stem cells. Stem cells collected from the umbilical cord at birth that can produce all of the blood cells in the body (hematopoietic). Cord blood is currently used to treat patients who have undergone chemotherapy that has destroyed their bone marrow due to cancer or other blood-related disorders.
Rev. Robert Fleischmann is the National Director of Christian Life Resources. He speaks throughout North America on the Biblical approach to various life and family issues and counsels people with God’s Word in correct decision-making.
Embryonic Stem Cells – Primitive (undifferentiated) cells derived from embryos before they would implant into
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c o m m entary
For It or Against It? by Pastor Robert Fleischmann
Stem cell research has been called the holy grail of modern medical research. With its “potential” applications in the cure of cancer, healing of spinal cord injuries and reversal of neurological declines, stem cell research has become the “talk of the town.” The federal government and some states fund the research. Newspapers and TV shows report about it. People continue to hold out promise at the prospect of using stem cells to heal and offer hope for improved qualities of life.
very same companies that exaggerate the therapeutic progress of the research. It also feeds the emotional fires that often distort realities.
Emotional Appeals From an emotional standpoint, objectivity becomes an immediate casualty. Rhetoric of an emotionallycharged conflict for a cure becomes overly-generalized, causing sweeping and often extreme accusations. These extreme statements, whether or not they are accurate, become alluring sound bites for media outlets perpetually faced with the need to cover and sell the news. Such is the case with stem cell research. The argument works like this: 1. Stem cell research can potentially cure a myriad of afflictions ranging from congenital defects to bodily injuries. 2. The cure of such defects and injuries would improve an afflicted person’s quality of life. 3. Nearly every person has a family member or acquaintance plagued by a malady that could potentially be cured as a result of successful stem cell research. 4. High profile anecdotal accounts by disabled celebrities put a real face on the plight of those afflicted – and present the scenario of real victims receiving real cures. Then there are those “conservative, Bible-thumping Christians” who object to embryonic stem cell research. Most people don’t know that stem cell research involves varied stem cell sources. They just lump the research together as the type that holds a huge potential in helping people in the cure of their serious health issues. So, by the time the case against embryonic stem cell research is made, the media reports about those opposed to stem cell research. Those sound bites command attention, arouse emotions, and cloud the real facts.
Such research raises emotional, ethical and scientific issues. Politicians and celebrities have stepped forward promising that with more money and more support, the answers lie just around the corner to what ails us.
Following the Money Trail It is impossible to talk about potentiallyincredible cures without equating it with incredible profits. Both the research team making the discovery and the company sponsoring the research stand to amass millions, even billions, of dollars. When an industry has these amounts of money at stake, the research potential becomes hyped, the progress exaggerated, and the public’s hopes for relief are heightened. Because of lofty promises by the research community in the early years, many reports of healed hearts, calmed neurological tremors, healed wounds, and the paralyzed walking began to surface. In each case a “grain of truth” figuratively took on legs and began to run. The hype gave rise to over-exaggerated hope in order to stimulate additional research dollars. Sadly, that reality makes up our capitalistic society. It offers incentives and rewards for research which, in turn, accelerates interest and fuels progress. This reality validates the public’s perception of the technology’s medical successes, and in the process the media releases news tainted by the C l ear ly C arin g
A Problem with One Kind of Research As one who objects to embryonic stem cell research, I argue for clarity within a framework of objectivity. I, for one, love
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the possibility of stem cell research. The prospect of research that can regenerate damaged tissue and organs remains an exciting prospect. Like most people, I have lost loved ones as a result of brain damage and heart disease. Many of my family and friends desperately want to improve their quality of life. The problem is not the desire of an enhanced quality of life. Rather, the disagreement comes in the manner in which it can be ethically achieved. Embryonic stem cell research remains the only objectionable type of stem cell research in that it takes a life to improve a life. Recognizing that human life exists at conception (Psalm 139; Psalm 51:5), the embryo is therefore human life. Left to develop as intended it will mature as human life. It never matures as anything else. It does not become a stick or a tire. It keeps growing and growing – always maturing into what it already is: a human being. Under the new ethic of our times society has become more accepting of the termination of human life. We saw it years ago with advocates for abortion who initially denied that life at conception meant a human
being. Now they admit it is a human life, and they consider that life a sad but necessary casualty over the autonomous right of a woman to make choices affecting her body. With embryonic stem cell research we again see this utilitarian approach to human life. Most high-profile advocates of embryonic stem cell research acknowledge that extracting an embryo’s stem cells terminates the life of that developing human being. Again, they perceive it as a sad but necessary sacrifice for the betterment of others.
Utilitarian Approach to Killing
A case in point is Michael J. Fox, the actor who endeared himself to the public as Alex P. Keaton on the television sitcom, Family Ties, and as Marty McFly in the Back to the Future movie trilogy. He is sadly inflicted with Parkinson’s disease. Fox also serves as one of the highest-profile celebrities in support of stem cell research – and especially embryonic stem cell research. In an interview with Katie Couric, Fox argued that the embryos lost in embryonic stem cell research would have been disposed of anyway. One would think the discussion centered on mealtime leftovers – not life at its earlier stage. Rather than wasting the embryos, let’s make another meal out of it. The difference – and it is a major difference – is that in embryonic stem cell research, this early human life cannot be considered leftovers: these are leftover human beings at their youngest and most vulnerable stage of their development. They cannot even give their consent to be sacrificed. For that fact, they did not volunteer for disposal because they were left over after in-vitro fertilization efforts. They are incompetent and defenseless human beings volunteered by someone else for dissection and eventual destruction. Before going any further, I want to make a startling admission: I think embryonic stem cell research has the potential to accomplish great things. I understand the logic of advocates for the use of embryonic stem cells in this research. These cells present not only an excellent www.FamilyTG.com | 800-478-2719 possibility to regenerate organs
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and tissue but also hold the potential in side-stepping organ or tissue rejection. But, is a human life – or even the lives of many human beings – worth the sacrifice for such a cure?
Is Wantedness a Criteria?
on people in the embryonic stage? How about a person in the fetal stage who would otherwise be destined for abortion? Can it be argued that the doctor should be able to remove that child and artificially extend its life for the purposes of future experimentation? Sad to say, there is some rather gruesome video footage of such experiments being done in that regard. Or maybe we should be able to dissect and cannibalize a newborn child who is not wanted because of some defect. The argument has been made by scientific leaders that unless such children are wanted or pass some test demonstrating potential, their lives they are expendable. What about terminally-ill patients? Should the elderly or the disabled be willing to forfeit their own lives for the sake of research and the potential betterment of society? The problem with advocates of selective killing is that they cannot present consistent or sustaining logic in drawing the line. Either all of life is potentially vulnerable – depending on changing times and mores – or all of life is to be protected as having the highest value of our society.
Years ago, advocates for abortion argued that abortion would reduce the population of unwanted children and thereby reduce incidences of child abuse. Do we then suppose abused children are unwanted and therefore should be used for experimentation? Sound far-fetched? Hone up on the Nazi regime’s dealings with condemned prisoners. Their logic made prisoners of war and others convicted of a capital crime (i.e., those worthy of capital punishment) eligible as human guinea pigs. As a result, prisoners of war were subjected to gruesome and often fatal experiments in the name of research to help others. There is a modern counterpart to this mentality. During Jack Kevorkian’s streak in assisting people to kill themselves, “Dr. Death” authored a book entitled, “Prescription: Medicide.” In it he advocated the right to use condemned prisoners for scientific experimentation. A willingness to dissect human life in the embryonic stage because they are unwanted raises the question, “Where does a person draw the line?” Can such experimentation only be done
There is stem cell research that is praiseworthy because it never harms or terminates life. Rather, it helps life by restoring quality, protecting it, and reflecting life’s true and absolute value. Such ethical stem cell research is already taking place. It is known as “adult stem cell research” and “cord blood stem cell research.” No lives are terminated in these types of research. Does it hold the full potential as embryonic stem cell research? Some say, “No,” but the better answer might be, “We don’t know yet.” Despite wonderful advancements that have already been made in adult and cord blood stem cell research, those efforts are still in their infancy. I am very optimistic that as research advances in those areas we will see great progress. As for embryonic stem cell research, there is no defensible logic in terminating a defenseless life for the utilitarian purpose of helping the lives of others. There is a Biblical and moral obligation to cultivate a different solution that otherwise destroys life in the name of preserving life.
Are Some Lives Expendable? Perhaps, that is the point to be debated: are some lives expendable? Is there such a thing as an acceptable level of sacrificed human life for the sake of more people? These are hard questions. Military leaders step into battle understanding that some lives might be lost in order to protect a nation. The major difference, however, is the cognitive consent and cooperation of the victim. A soldier agrees to serve and risk his life. The human being in the embryonic stage, however, cannot speak for itself. He or she cannot volunteer to become a sacrifice. There is no decision that can be made on the part of the smallest of all human beings. If we agree with the logic of Mr. Fox, where do we draw the line? When does a human life become expendable and victimized by reason of its unwantedness?
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Laudable Stem Cell Research
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Creating a Market for Embryos by Pastor Robert Fleischmann
Those in the pro-life movement often use the term, “the slippery slope.” This “slope” not only refers to logical connections in a course of action (i.e., if the desire is to take life in the womb, it won’t take long before it becomes accepted practice to take life outside of the womb) but points to self-created circumstances that validate going further – much like the momentum generated after a rock is pushed down a slope to the bottom. Embryonic stem cell research is a good example of this trend. A central argument in the advocacy of embryonic stem cell research involves the estimated 400,000 unclaimed frozen embryos that would otherwise be disposed of if not used for the good of embryonic stem cell research. About 18 embryos are currently needed to create five useful stem cell lines. That means of the 400,000 embryos, more than 110,000 stem cell lines could be extracted for use in experimentation. This argument can be appealing – even for those who otherwise might consider themselves to be “prolife.” It appeals to the utilitarian side in all of us – not wanting to waste anything that might otherwise be used for good. There are a few problems with this argument: 1) Is the number of 400,000 cryo-preserved embryos available for research accurate? No, the number is based on a statistical estimate or, more accurately, a guess-timate. It could be many more or a lot less. 2) Not all cryo-preserved embryos can be considered potential candidates for embryonic stem cell research. In fact, the available number might shock you. In the May 2003 issue of Fertility and Sterility 79 (5): 1063-1069, researchers found of C l ear ly C arin g
the estimated 400,000 cryo-preserved embryos, only a small percentage (11%) were available for research. Allowing for rejection of poor quality embryos from the remaining eligible numbers, the study calculated only 275 embryonic stem cell lines could optimistically be created. To date, approximately 60 stem cell lines exist – and they have yet to produce any results. Are more needed? With 275 more lines, will that be enough? What if we need more? Now, let’s complicate the issue even more. A 2010 study in the British Medical Journal suggests that rather than the standard 3-5 embryos used in an IVF (in-vitro fertilization) procedure, the implantation of a single embryo actually boosts the success rate in having a healthy delivery. Conversely, this reduces the number of embryos created in the laboratory for cryo-preservation and thereby reduces the number that might later become available for stem cell research. If embryonic stem cell research continues to fuel the need for more embryos, where would they be derived? The “slippery slope” answer is alarming – human cloning. Supporters of cloning for stem cell research are quick to distinguish between therapeutic cloning and reproductive cloning. Reproductive cloning involves the creation of another fullydeveloped human being. No reputable advocates of this type of cloning can be found – yet! Support is found instead in therapeutic cloning. Therapeutic cloning is identical in process as reproductive cloning, but once the life is developed to the blastocyst stage it is destroyed in order to extract stem cells. The primary objection of embryonic stem cell research is the destruction of human life – whether obtained through leftover embryos from IVF procedures or created through cloning. So long as the value of life at this early stage is mitigated, one can expect such ideas to move to the forefront in the years to come. Such is a different and precarious path down the slippery slope.
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News & Views
Poll Finds Church Attendance Correlates with Abortion View A recent Gallup Poll indicates attitudes toward abortion are strongly related to religion. Churchgoers said they are more likely to be pro-life on the abortion issue than those who rarely attend or never attend religious services. Regardless of their political stance, twice as many respondents who said they attend regular worship services self-identified as pro-life compared with those who said they seldom or never attended religious services. S OU RC E : 6/7/11 - National Right to Life News Today
Assisted Suicide Advocate Jack Kevorkian Dies at Age 83 Jack Kevorkian, the Michigan pathologist who assisted at least 130 people in killing themselves, died in a Detroit-area hospital June 3 at the age of 83 of kidney and respiratory problems. Dubbed “Dr. Death” for his advocacy of assisted suicide, Kevorkian was eventually sentenced in the 1998 death of Thomas Youk, a Lou Gehrig’s disease sufferer. Kevorkian administered the lethal combination of drugs which was captured on video and broadcast on “60 Minutes.” S OU RC E S : 6/3/11 - LifeNews.com; 6/3/11 - Huffington Post
Stem Cells Derived from Fat Used to Repair Skull Defects Stem cells derived from abdominal fat are seen as a valuable new approach to repairing skull defects after brain surgery. The June issue of Neurosurgery reports on preliminary results of a study suggesting adipose-derived stem cells (ASCs) can easily be developed from a patient’s abdominal fat to fill large skull defects. Researchers used the method to restore skull defects in four patients by developing the C l ear ly C arin g
fat-derived stem cells and combining them with a synthetic bone grafting material to form new “custom-made” cranial bone. S OU RC E : 6/1/11 - Medical News Today
Doctor Claims Responsibility in Directing Nearly 300 to Commit Suicide Lawrence Egbert, the 83-year-old medical director of the group called Final Exit Network, has been dubbed “the new Doctor Death.” In an interview with the Baltimore Sun, Egbert says he assisted nearly 300 people to commit suicide and was present at close to 100 deaths. In his role as FEN’s medical director Egbert assesses and approves about 95 percent of requests to die, despite some who say they are not terminally ill. In late April he was acquitted of manslaughter in the death of a Phoenix woman who inhaled helium to asphyxiate herself. Egbert is also being charged in Georgia in another case. S OU RC E : 5/28/11 – BioEdge
FDA Warning Issued About Some Birth Control Pills The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued a safety alert warning on a certain class of birth control pills citing new evidence that these pills increase the risk of serious and potentially fatal blood clots. The contraceptives include Yaz, Yasmin, Ocella and six other brand names. Two newly-released studies suggest the pills containing the progestin hormone drospirenone increase the risk of clots 2-3 times than older pills with a different hormone component, levonorgestrel. A thorough safety investigation on the subject is expected later this summer by the FDA. S OU RC E : 6/2/11 – WebMD
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The Christians Concerned for Life Foundation is a separate legal entity affiliated with CLR, established to sponsor special life and family affirming projects that reflect Biblical principles in protecting human life and ministering to souls. Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used in permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
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