Monday, February 6, 2006

Stem Cell Research

Dr Dork has strong personal views, when it comes to stem cell research.

Unfortunately, this seems to boil down to an issue of theology, as much as neurology.

Dr Dork remembers studying obstetrics and embryology.

The issue a lot of people have, it seems, is...when does a morula, embryo, or foetus become a human being ?

That is a profound philosophical question, not just a scientific one.

The philosophy ? Dr Dork pleads ignorance.

Catholics claim consciousness occurs at the moment of conception. Dr Dork thinks this viewpoint is well summarised here

The science ?

There is no easy answer. Dr Dork recalls from his embryology training that the complexity at 8 weeks is barely that of a fish. Not a dolphin, mind you. A goldfish. Maybe a snapper.

But, Dr Dork recalls, a large proportion of pregnancies, 40% perhaps, spontaneously abort. A lot of these occur due to maternal use of alcohol, tobacco, even caffeine. If Dr Dork was Catholic, would this then be murder?

Dr Dork means no offence to the Catholic religion. His grandmother was a devout Roman Catholic. He wishes to engage in debate, and wishes to air his opinions. He apologises for any inherent offence.

This site gives a reasonable summary of details involved in stem cell research. To an extent, these can even be taken from peripheral blood samples (ie. typical blood samples) in adult donors. Dr Dork knows this from personal experience as well - he has donated his own peripheral blood stem cells for a bone marrow transplant patient with a haematological (blood based) cancer. One is injected with a type of hormone to stimulate more stem cells then these are drained just like a normal blood donati0n.

Dr Dork has much hope for the potential of this avenue of scientific exploration.

In particular, there is a just beginning trend, it seems, wherein stem cells are stored from the umbilical cords of newborn babies. And this is where the real potential lies.

These stem cells have the potential to be developed into any organ. A heart, a liver, a pancreas, a spinal cord.

Dr Dork hopes our children, or perhaps our childrens children, will be free of the spectre of organ failure.

Heart disease is the obvious fear, It is our biggest killer. Imagine growing a new heart, when ones own fails, from ones own blood sample, given at birth.

That is worth fighting for.

Dr Dork would like to thank dragonflylili of Flamingos Hideaway for
emailing Dr Dork in regards to this topic and inspiring this post.

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