[Note: I was able to write this on the way to a hospital visit today while my wife was driving the van, so that it did not impact my time working on other things. Yay, laptops!]
For those who haven’t heard, some scientists are claiming that they have learned how to turn adult skin cells into the complete and total equivalent to embryonic stem cells without sacrificing a single embryo or harvesting a single egg. While the work has only been done with rat cells at the moment, the implications are gigantic. The resulting stem cells–again, the non-embryonic stem cells–have been turned into all types of tissue cells, with the same easy and versatility as scientists wish to achieve with embryonic stem cells. Read for yourself here at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch website.
[EDIT, 6/8/2007: In the event you would simply like the executive level summary of the findings, here is how my WSJ news alert e-mail summarized the discovery…
“Researchers have created embryonic stem cells without using eggs or destroying embryos, a move that may overcome key ethical quandaries of stem-cell research.
“In experiments on mice, four independent teams of scientists pulled off a feat that is the biological equivalent of turning back time: They returned old, mature cells to their primordial, embryonic state. Further experiments showed that the derived cells had the same properties as true embryonic stem cells, such as the ability to turn into muscle, heart, nerve and other tissue types.”]
For those who care about our society’s slipping respect for human life, this is fantastic news. The ability to produce such stem cells from adult cells means that one could potentially realize all the same benefits as those touted for embryonic stem cells, but without the moral tragedy of sacrificing embryonic humans or beginning down the Ethical Slip-and-Slide™ of human cloning. Of course, those who have actually looked into stem cell research for themselves have long recognized that adult stem cell research has held enough promise to make the “ethically challenged” alternatives virtually unnecessary to consider. But now we are beginning to move from promise to established fact. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that this fact will be irrelevant to those for whom sound ethics are still in the embryonic stage. This was demonstrated today when the U.S. Congress passed legislation to ease President Bush’s restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research (legislation sure to be vetoed). I don’t argue against the opinion that Mr. Bush’s executive level restrictions were at least partially political in their design and creation. But I don’t pretend that votes like this aren’t equally political in their motivation and crafting. How sad that such issues as deep as the regard our society will show human life should be batted around like a political shuttlecock.
So, the push to allow the destruction of human beings continues. And don’t get me wrong — I think it is just as tragic that embryos sit in fertility clinics all over the U.S. only to stay perpetually in frozen limbo or to end up destroyed. But I refuse to accept that it is somehow better to sacrifice them to the gods of Science & Medicine Without Bounds than it is to sacrifice them to the gods of Convenience Without Consequence and its many related splinter cults.
I could say more (couldn’t we always say more?), but I will leave it at that. Again, here is a link to today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch article on the matter, though I’m sure you can find word of it at your favorite web news portal. For a previous, related blog entry (written when the “Amendment 2” mess in Missouri was coming to a head) — in which I try to bring up issues that both sides of the embryonic stem cell debate were failing to consider — you can click here.
Ethics — good and right ethics, based on the will and mind of God — will one day return to the forefront of medical considerations and will no longer be that pesky and confusing topic that people annoyingly keep bringing up. There will be no area of life that will be able to hide from the light of the truth of God and the wonder of His laws and ways, since “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9). At that time, there will be a great deal of weeping and repenting for the choices that were made during the days we are living in now, but afterwards the fruit of that repentance will be a delight for all who find it, since “His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).