Written By Jessica Ryen Doyle for Fox News
In the past 20 years, stem cell research has been thrust into the medical spotlight as celebrities like Michael J. Fox and Christopher Reeve have advocated for it. Also, numerous studies have shown stem cell therapies have successfully treated a plethora of diseases.
And now, with the release of The Healing Cell: How the Greatest Revolution in Medical History Is Changing Your Life, the Catholic Church has given its stamp of approval on adult stem cell research by discussing the many ways these therapies work for the greater good. In fact, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote the book’s introduction, which was co-authored by Dr. Robin Smith and Monsignor Tomasz Trafny, along with Max Gomez.
Stem cell therapy isn’t anything new. Using bone marrow transplants to treat leukemia, which started more than 40 years ago, is essentially the same procedure. Through this process, doctors extract stem cells from the bone marrow and transplant them into the body to replace damaged cells caused by blood and bone marrow cancers. Sometimes cancer patients use autologous cells – cells harvested from their own body – and sometimes they use donated cells from another person’s bone marrow.
Smith said when celebrities began speaking out on behalf of embryonic ‘super cells,’ that’s when the real buzz started.
“Embryonic stem cells can become anything, any organ,” Smith said. “You have to destroy the embryo to get the cells, unless it’s from a stillborn fetus. It’s hard to control that in a lab. So that’s a little different from an adult stem cell, which is more mature. They exist in our bodies throughout our lifetime and go on to create just one or two specific things. All these clinical trials are looking at what cells should come from and where, in order to be treated.”
Embryonic stem cells are derived from unused embryos initially intended for in vitro fertilization. However, because of the sheer number of embryos actually created and stored, there are many ultimately slated for destruction.
The ethical concerns come from whether or not to use embryonic stem cells for research.