Stem Cell Research

March 5, 1999

Recently 70 members of Congress sent a letter asking the Secretary of Health and Human Services to rescind a ruling that federal money may be used for research on human embryonic stem cells. While this is a major pro-life concern, I think most Christians have ignored it because they are confused by the scientific issues involved. Let me try to explain.

When an embryo cell begins to divide, it begins to differentiate. In the beginning, however, each cell is identical to every other one. There are no eye cells, no heart cells, no bone cells. But soon, cells begin to differentiate. Until they do, each embryonic cell has the potential to be any kind of cell. These are called stem cells.

Last year scientists were able to isolate and cultivate these cells for the first time. Further research and development of these cells will allow doctors and scientists to replace aged and damaged human tissues. They could be cells that heal broken nerve cells so those who are paralyzed might once again walk, or those with Parkinson's disease will no longer suffer from its effects. Stem cells could be used in internal organs to treat diabetes or heart failure.

The congressional concern was the manner of obtaining the embryonic stem cells which is viewed as morally unacceptable by pro life advocates. The stem cells were derived from long-frozen embryos that had been created in fertility clinics. The congressmen argue that the recent ruling "would violate both the letter and spirit of the federal law" that bars federal support for research in which human embryos are destroyed.

Senator Arlen Specter is critical of the letter. He believes these congressman stand in the way of a "possible cure for major diseases like Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, cancer and heart disease." He plans to hold hearings on their concerns.

Frankly, I applaud the congressmen. Too few Christians understand the moral issues here, but if they did, I believe they would object. Maybe now that you've heard my commentary, you're one of them.

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