Pro-life institute works to put adult stem cells in the spotlight

Science
by Julie Borg
Posted 6/08/15, 02:15 pm

A 10-year-old baseball player and a middle-age construction company owner are both healthy and alive today because of adult stem-cell transplants, a treatment that does not involve the destruction of a human embryo.

The Charlotte Lozier Institute wants to get the word out about adult stem-cell transplants as a safe, effective, and ethical alternative to embryonic stem-cell use. The institute has acquired the website Stem Cell Research Facts and is working to produce videos documenting successful treatments using adult stem cells. Paul Wagle and Tony Underhill are alive today thanks to the expanding use of adult stem-cell transplants.

Paul Wagle loved to play baseball until he was 10, when his back started to hurt. Before the end of summer, he could no longer swing the bat. That October, doctors diagnosed him with acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL). For 2 1/2 years, the boy carried a backpack filled with chemotherapy drugs to school every day. And just when he thought the cancer was gone, he relapsed. Wagle was one of the 15 percent of ALL patients who are chemotherapy-resistant. His doctor said his only hope was an adult stem-cell transplant. Today, Wagle is a healthy, active adult studying to be a priest.

Tony Underhill was diagnosed with systemic scleroderma, a disease in which the immune system attacks its own body. After 10 days of treatment, his doctor told him his condition was incurable and he had about three months to live. Then Underhill learned about adult stem-cell therapy. Within one day after a stem-cell transplant, Underhill showed improvement; a year later he was back at work, running his construction company.

When most people hear the term “stem cell,” they immediately think of embryonic cells because that research that has been publicized and politicized, said David Prentice, vice president and research director of the Charlotte Lozier Institute. Few people, including physicians, realize there are ethical, life-preserving alternatives to the use of embryonic stem cells.

While embryo-destroying stem-cell research marches on, patients like Wagle and Underhill are living testimonies that there are ethical, pro-life alternatives to destroying human beings. Their stories, and those of many like them, are available at Stem Cell Research Facts.

Stem cells are the body’s built-in repair system because they divide and self-renew indefinitely. Stem cells can be obtained from an embryo in the first few days of development, resulting in the destruction of the embryo, or they can be obtained from adult cells found in any tissue or organ in the body, including umbilical cord blood.

Researchers often support the use of embryonic stem cells because they can be used to produce any type of cell in the body, whereas adult stem cells can only produce cells for the tissue or organ in which they originated. Embryonic stem cells also can easily be stored in the lab. But the tissues they produce have a higher rate of rejection after transplantation. And they are so good at reproducing it is hard to stop their growth, which means treatment with embryonic stem cells can cause cancer.

To date, there are no clearly effective treatments using embryonic stem cells. But over 1 million people suffering from more than 80 different conditions have been treated with adult stem-cell therapy with good results. In the vast majority of cases, the treatment has been effective and there are no known cases of adult stem cell treatment causing cancer. “Adult stem cell treatment is not only the safe and ethical answer; it is the only successful type of stem-cell therapy,” Prentice said.

Julie Borg

Julie is a clinical psychologist and writer who lives in Dayton, Ohio. She reports on science and intelligent design for WORLD Magazine and WORLD Digital.

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