Posted by: BibleScienceGuy | January 1, 2008

1. What Are Stem Cells?

(2 Minute Read)

Cures for heart disease and cancer? For spinal cord injuries? For Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s? For diabetes? Researchers claim embryonic stem cells can resolve these problems. How could anyone be opposed to such research?

Embryonic stem cell research (ESCR) is highly controversial. It’s debated in the halls of Congress, throughout the media, and at the water cooler. State ballot proposals pass and fail. From actors to politicians to preachers to scientists, determined advocates champion both sides of the issue — often motivated by hidden agendas.

Stem cells are starter cells that can grow into different kinds of adult tissue such as nerve, muscle, heart, skin, and blood. Stem cells can repair or replace damaged tissue and potentially provide cures for many degenerative diseases.

Scientists call them stem cells because a stem is the main stalk of a plant from which the plant branches out. Similarly, stem cells are the main stalk from which cells differentiate (branch out) into all the 220 specialized cell types of the body.

Human bodies constantly regenerate blood and skin tissue. Stem cells start this process. When you cut yourself, stem cells help repair the damage. Without stem cells to regenerate blood and tissue, you would die.

All tissues do not have stem cells. Nerve, heart, and muscle tissues lack stem cells. Non-functional scar tissue repairs tissue without stem cells.

Stem cells were first discovered through regeneration experiments with bone marrow transplants in the 1950’s. Since an embryo develops all types of cells, scientists looked for “cell generators” (stem cells) in embryos. Embryonic stem cells were extracted from mice in the 1980’s and from humans in 1998.

Stem cell research is currently a topic of intense worldwide interest. It potentially has life and death repercussions for the unborn, as well as significant medical benefits for the already born. It’s important for Christians to understand the issues and speak out to promote Biblically sound policies regarding stem cell research.

Soli Deo Gloria.

This is the first of a series of five blog posts explaining what stem cell research is all about and providing a Biblical perspective on the topic.
Read the sequels:
2. Types of Stem Cells
3. Embryonic vs. Adult Stem Cells
4. What Is Cloning?
5. Stem Cells from Skin

Read the December 2007 Bible-Science newspaper column Christmas Animals.

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©William T. Pelletier, Ph.D.
“contending earnestly for the faith”
“destroying speculations against the knowledge of God”
“for the defense of the gospel”
(Jude 1:3; 2 Cor 10:5; Phil 1:16)
Tuesday January 1, 2008 A.D.

For Thou didst form my inward parts; Thou didst weave me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Thy works, And my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from Thee, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth. Thine eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Thy book they were all written, The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them. (Psalms 139:13-16)

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Responses

  1. My brother recovered from Multiple Myeloma by using his own stem cells, which I am sure you will address in future posts. Today, however, What Are Stem Cells contains a contradiction: “Stem cells are starter cells that can grow into different kinds of adult tissue such as nerve, muscle, heart, skin, and blood”. Shortly thereafter, you say, “Nerve, heart, and muscle tissues lack stem cells”. Please correct this in a future post.

    Like

    • Thanks for reading and commenting. Stem cells can grow into all types of mature cells, but not all mature tissues have starter stem cells. Nerve, muscle, and heart tissue do not contain stem cells.

      Like


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