Where do stem cells come from? A stem cell is a primitive type of cell that can be developed into developing into most of the 220 types of cells found in the human body (e.g. blood cells, heart cells, brain cells, etc). Some researchers regard them as offering the greatest potential for the alleviation of human suffering since the development of antibiotics. Millions of Americans suffer from diseases that may eventually be treated more effectively with stem cells or even cured. These include heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.
Stem cells can be extracted from very young human embryos typically from surplus frozen embryos left over from in-vitro fertilization procedures at fertility clinics. Embryonic stem cells are unique, because they can differentiate into any cell type of the body. There are currently about thousands of surplus embryos in storage. However, pro-life organizations object to the use of embryos.
They feel that a few-days-old embryo is a human person. Extracting its stem cells kills the embryo. Many argue that since the unused embryos will be destroyed; why not use them for research instead? Research gives the life of the embryo meaning as opposed to being washed down the drain and destroyed.
There are several alternatives to using embryonic stems cells. Stem cells can now be grown in the laboratory: some research can be done using existing stem cells. Stem cells can also be extracted from adult tissue, without harm to the subject. Unfortunately, they are difficult to remove and are severely limited in quantity. There is some evidence that indicates that adult cells may be more flexible than previously thought. Yet, the following show promise to millions:
1. A type of embryonic stem cell, called a neural crest stem cell, that persists into adulthood in hair follicles was recently...