Letter to the Editor

Adult stem cells

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Dear Editor,

If Annie M. Warren is truly concerned about "doing all we can to help people with debilitating diseases," she should be supportive of adult stem cell research rather than embryonic stem cell research.

For clarification, there are basically two types of stem cells, embryonic (ESCs) and non-embryonic or adult stem cells (ASCs). Both types of stem cells are developmentally flexible. Adult stem cells are obtained from a number of sources such as skin cells, bone marrow, placenta, umbilical cord blood and body fat.

Embryonic stem cells are harvested from five- to seven-day old human embryos. The process destroys a living human embryo.

A misconception exists that there are "tens of thousands of orphan embryos sitting in nitrogen ... never to be used by anyone." In truth, 88 percent will be implanted in their mother's womb. Of the remaining 12 percent, only 3 percent are available for research. The others are adopted by infertile couples, destroyed or held for other reasons.

If research with ESC's showed promise, one might understand others' willingness to overlook the morality of killing human embryos for research. However, to date, researchers have had minimal success with ESCs in animal research. Embryonic stem cells are unpredictable and tend to form tumors. Therefore, scientists have been unable to move beyond animal experimentation.

On the other hand, ASCs offer much hope to those with debilitating diseases or injuries. The National Institute of Health identifies 74 treatable diseases using ASCs in therapy. Therapies using ASCs have been in existence for 20 years. Researchers have successfully treated diseases such as breast cancer, sickle cell anemia, leukemia, Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis. Heart damage and spinal cord injuries also have responded to adult stem cell therapies.

Embryonic stem cells have yet to cure a single patient, animal or human. Adult stem cells are used to treat more than 70 diseases without the destruction of human life. Seems like a no-brainer to me.


Kathy Matson,


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