Amniotic Stem Cell Breakthrough

Probably the best "solution" to the embryonic stem cell debate is scientific advancement in related fields. Just such an advancement may be occurring. In the latest issue of Nature Biotechnology, a study by researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C., was released which showed that amniotic fluid is a source of stem cells that may be of even better medical use than embryonic stem cells. The amniotic stem cells grew quickly, doubling in 36 hours, and "were able to ... differentiate into fat, bone, muscle, blood, nerve and liver cells."

Although research is ongoing, it appears the harvesting of amniotic fluid -- causing no harm to embryo, baby, or mother -- could yield more than enough stem cells for possible treatments derived therefrom. If the research holds out, there would be no need to kill embryos to harvest their cells. In addition to resolving the moral problem, amniotic stem cells appear to bestow an added medical benefit. Whereas embryionic stem cells have caused rapid tumor growth in test mice, amniotic stem cells have not.


BK said…
This is a very important story. Assuming that the news accounts contain the entire story, this removes 90% of the reason for proceeding with the (at minimum) morally questionable act of harvesting stem cells from embryos in the search for cures that may or may not exist.

Barring any unforeseen problems with the research, I think this is a great step forward. If the Christian community gets behind this, as I suspect they will, it will show that contrary to a book that suggests that the Christian opposition to stem cell research is evidence of a war on science, Christians are only opposed to science that is practiced immorally or where a philosophical point of view is substituted for real science.
Jason Pratt said…
We'd still have to be careful about pregnant women being exploited for the amniotic cells, of course. But I agree, this would be a huge step forward--including on the tumor problem. (I read about that in FT this month, too.)

Layman said…
Unintended consequences are a source of concern, especially in the medical field. Perhaps one way the churches could support this breakthrough is by educating their parishoners and encouraging cooperation with the research. Most Protestant churches would like not have a problem with that, though I understand that the Catholic Church may have a problem with any kind of stem cell treatments.

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