What are stem cells?

Stem cells are undifferentiated cell of a multi-cellular organism which is capable of giving rise to indefinitely more cells of the same kind, as well as certain other types of cell arise by differentiation. Furthermore, it can be described as, whenever a cell divides it has an option to become either a stem cell or another specific kind of cells like blood cells, heart cells, liver cells etc. Everyone has stem cells in their body and they have the power to develop into any cell and repair any damaged tissue in the body.

How many types of stem cells are there?

There are three types of stem cells, described as follows:

Adult Stem Cells
Adult stem cells are in our organs and tissues, and they can also be found in placentas and umbilical cords. These type of stem cells assist in repairing damaged tissues and organs in our bodies thereby helping them heal.

Embryonic Stem Cells
The embryonic stem cells originate from embryos. Basically, an embryo is an unborn offspring in its development process. In the beginning, human embryos are as tiny as a dot on a pencil. In order to obtain embryonic stem cells, researchers must destroy the embryos before using them for research.

IPS Cells
Induced pluripotent stem cells or IPS cells are the third kind of stem cells. They start out as adult stem cells. Then they undergo genetic reprogramming to mimic an embryonic-like state. Their diversity is the same as embryonic stem cells but do not require the use of embryo.

Is Stem Cell Research Morally Evil?

Not exactly. The Vatican has approved adult stem cell and IPS cell research as ethically and morally acceptable. Moreover, adult stem cell and IPS research does not go against Catholic teaching.

In contrast, research on embryonic stem cell is morally evil because it destroys the lives of embryos.

As Catholics, we believe human life begins at conception and to destroy lives of embryos is morally evil. Every human life is a miracle from God, and no one has the right to take life away from a human being. Finding cures and healing sick patients should not require taking innocent lives.

Why are Scientists Interested in Embryonic Stem Cells?

Adult stem cells have limitations in the type of cells that they can develop. The reason that many secular scientists are attracted to embryonic stem cells is that embryonic stem cells have the potential to become any cell in the body. Yet, IPS cells can now provide the same opportunities as embryonic stem cells. However, over the years, scientists have run across difficulties with embryonic stem cells.

The two main issues are:

o Many embryonic stem cells have tendencies to develop tumors.
o Embryonic stem cells have a high possibility of immune rejection.
Whenever something foreign enters the body, the immune system will try to destroy it and protect the body.

What is the future of medical research in terms of Regenerative Medicine and Drug Discovery?

When it is about drug development, researchers test drugs on animals prior to human drug testing. However animal testing does not predict drug efficacy and safety in humans. Researchers today, believe that stem cells are the key to curing many current incurable diseases. For sick patients, their diseases are often in their stem cells, and researchers can take those stem cells and use them for drug testing. Not only stem cell’s drug testing is accurate, it also decreases the need for animal testing.