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Latest advances in adult stem cell research reflect God’s marvelous gift of the body

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (The Bishop’s Bulletin) - A new development has brought stem cell research back into the news. Typically, the media has only covered stories that push for advancement and funding of embryonic stem cell research. This method involves creating new human life only to then remove the vital embryonic stem cells from the embryo, resulting in death. The Church teaches that this is an intrinsic evil and can never be an acceptable method of research.


But there is great news. The recent development involves adult stem cells, which exist in all human bodies, provide a natural repair mechanism, can be removed without harming the person, and have been used for many years to successfully treat over seventy different diseases in thousands of human patients.

‘Superior’ cells without human cost

Scientists in Japan and Wisconsin recently published studies which offer new hope for advancing stem cell research while fully respecting the dignity of human life. The strategy involves reprogramming human adult stem cells. In the most recent studies, the specific cells that were reprogrammed were human skin cells. Scientists were successful in creating embryonic-like stem cells by introducing genes into the skin cells that reprogrammed them to be less specialized, which is referred to as “pluripotent.” This means that the cells can become various types of cells and therefore repair various areas in the body.

In other words, scientists may now be able to produce the pluripotent stem cells that have been trumpeted as necessary for the development of cures to various diseases, without the need to create and destroy embryos. Even the scientist who helped clone “Dolly” the sheep said he is abandoning efforts to clone humans to pursue this new reprogramming research because it is technically superior as well as easier to accept socially.

One reason some scientists are describing these new stem cells as “superior” to embryonic stem cells is because these new stem cells can be created from the very person who will then be treated with them. One of the main reasons why embryonic stem cell research has not helped a single human patient is because when embryonic stem cells are introduced into animal bodies, they are identified as “foreign” and either rejected, or develop into tumors.

This is also why scientists were trying to perfect human cloning – to produce a clone of the person to be treated in hopes that the embryonic stem cells then removed from the cloned embryo would not be rejected.

All in God’s plan

While this is wonderful news, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. When we focus our research efforts on healings and cures that respect the dignity and life of each of God’s children, He will reveal to us all of the miraculous things our bodies have to offer, for we must always remember that we are made in His image, and He is a God of love and life.

Luckily, South Dakota has some of the strongest laws in the country preventing destructive embryonic stem cell and cloning research. Recently, local news stories have reported that scientists from out of state want these laws to be weakened to allow embryonic stem cell and/ or cloning research to take place here. While this new development further strengthens our laws, we need to keep our eyes open to those who still want to hang their hats on research that causes the death of the tiniest of our fellow citizens.

(Travis and Kelly Benson are lobbyists and attorneys for the Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls.)

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