Body Part Replacement

April 16, 1999

Growing replacement body parts may sound like science fiction. But if recent developments are any indication, body part replacement may soon become science fact. Researchers in Baltimore have isolated from adult bone marrow a master cell that can be induced to grow bone or cartilage.

The study, published in the journal Science, reports that researchers extracted a single mesenchymal stem cell from bone marrow and then grew it into a colony of more than a million cells that could be directed to produce either bone, cartilage or fat. Future advances may allow scientists to produce muscle cell lines.

If the technique proves successful, scientists may eventually be able to use this procedure to replace tissue lost to cancer, osteoporosis, injury or dental disease. This latest advance helps move stem cell research from the laboratory to the clinic.

But as I have said in previous commentaries, stem cell research is controversial because it often uses stem cells from frozen embryos. Certain stem cells can only be found in embryos. Using these embryos raises significant pro-life concerns.

The latest research described in Science is different because it doesn't use stem cells from embryos but instead uses adult stem cells. These mesenchymal stem cells provide the parent lines for bone, cartilage, fat, tendon, and muscle. The stem cells from embryos can be used to grow any tissue in the body but of course raise moral concerns.

This latest development once again reminds us to carefully examine each genetic advance. It would be wrong for Christians to criticize all stem cell research. This latest advance holds great promise and can and should be endorsed by pro-life advocates. Once again we see the wonderful results of the genetic revolution.

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.