A couple of months ago, I was in downtown Los Angeles, at the courthouse, doing my jury duty for several days. There are always breaks and lulls, during which time hundreds of participants can and do talk and get to know each other. I actually enjoyed it.
During one of those breaks, I was electrified by a conversation with an L.A. scientist/engineer/businessman named John Wong. Somehow the subject of embryonic stem-cell research came up, and I expressed my deep concerns about the eventual creation of nascent embryos and then the use of them in laboratory experiments. The state of California recently committed 3 billion taxpayer dollars, over the strenuous objections of many of us, to this experimentation.
The rationale, the hope, is that pure embryonic stem cells might be effective in treating dire conditions like Parkinson’s, cancer, epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease. There’s no proof, just the hope and projections of eager scientists and many large medical companies, and the very understandable desire of so many whose lives are affected by these and other maladies. The yearnings to find cures, somehow, somewhere, are overriding the moral questions about actually fertilizing a human egg with a human sperm, creating a life (obviously, if the new creation isn’t living, it’s useless) – and then dissecting and short-circuiting the inevitable development of this living organism in a search for a possible cure-all.
John Wong told me about his company, Moraga Biotechnology Corporation, a Los Angeles based adult stem-cell company whose goal is to develop stem-cell products for the life science and health-care industries. He informed me that the scientific founders of this company have over 30 years of experience in stem-cell research –and that they have discovered a novel stem cell from adult tissues with properties similar to cells obtained from embryos! These cells can be – and are being – recovered from almost any tissue found in adult humans, while maintaining many of the properties described for embryonic stem cells!!
I was astounded.
Wong went on to tell me about the research conducted all these years by Dr. H.E. Young and his colleagues in laboratories in Georgia, demonstrating scientifically that postnatal individuals – that’s you and me – contain a series of adult stem cells with attributes very similar, but not identical, to stem cells derived from embryos and fetuses. The similarities between these two groups of stem cells, i.e., embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells, include an unlimited ability to increase in numbers (self-renewal) and their ability to form any cell type in the body, including the gametes.
The differences noted between embryonic and adult stem cells are reflected in the programming of the cells. The former cells are pre-programmed to form all the tissues of an individual. This event occurs automatically after conception, with fusion of the reproductive gametes, the sperm and ovum. In contrast, adult stem cells are not preprogrammed to form anything; they wait for exterior or environmental signals to tell them what they should do. They’re in a “resting state,” in effect waiting for marching orders. And Dr. Young demonstrates, in a powerful photographic presentation that my wife and I have seen, that his group can – and have – identified and utilized specific chemical agents that can tell adult stem cells to form a specific single cell type, which they will do. And then those cells can be injected into the blood stream, where they will seek and find the damaged place where they’re needed!
And, wonderfully, a patient’s own easily harvested adult stem cells can be used for his or her own treatment, and the implanted “self” stem cells will not be rejected! In the presentation Shirley and I saw, we observed these powerful cells go like homing pigeons to the most needed spots in the heart or brain or other vital organ of the donor – and repair the damage. It looked truly miraculous, and we believe it is.
We’re not doctors or scientists and can only partially grasp all we’re seeing and hearing about. But to us, what these qualified and experienced scientists have discovered and developed not only makes the very expensive, long-range and extremely questionable research and use of created embryos unnecessary, it also offers help and probably miraculous treatment much more imminent and abundantly available, without the moral dilemma.
It reminds me of the time Moses balked at God’s command to confront Pharaoh with His command “Let My people go!” Moses felt so inadequate and asked, “Why should Pharaoh listen to what I say?” And God answered, “What is that in thy hand?”
Moses, befuddled, said, “My staff, my walking stick … Why?” God told him to throw it on the ground, and it became a serpent. Then God told him to pick it up, which Moses gingerly did, and it was a staff again.
The point was the Creator of all mankind can do anything He wants, and we’re created in His image, with infinite capabilities. Instead of trying to “play God” and tamper with His proprietary creative processes, I feel we should recognize that He’s asking again, “What is that in your hand, in your blood? Use that, and I’ll work with you. Leave creation to me. I’ve got a lot more experience than you do!”
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