Let’s Talk Stem Cells

In the last fortnight, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Stem Cell Transplantation hosted a celebratory event in support of stem cell donors. Kate Green, MP for Stretford and Urmston, joined the event celebrating the 1,275 members of her constituency registered on the Anthony Nolan donor list.

People’s reaction to news regarding stem cells can be hesitant and uncertain. Let’s unpack this.

Anthony Nolan is a charity that offers lifesaving transplants to those suffering with blood cancer and blood disorders; so far, so good – in fact, absolutely wonderful. We can all agree that this endeavor should be highly applauded.

Hesitation, however, comes from an uncertainty and a lack of knowledge about stem cells.

What are stem cells?

Stem cells are brilliant.

They are the ‘master cells’ in the body – unspecialised cells that can develop into various different cells that the body requires. We fondly call them our bodies’ little first aid kits that can rush in and repair damaged cells with healthy ones.

Stem cells have been shown to cure a huge number of serious conditions, such as blood cancer, bone marrow failure, blood disorders, and metabolic and immune system deficiencies.

What we need to ensure, before applauding the use of these wonderful little first aid kits, is that they are sourced ethically.

A very simple analogy:

I am a big fan of eggs. To quote authoritynutrition.com they are an “Egg-ceptional Superfood,” and “amongst the healthiest foods on the planet.” They’re packed with proteins, vitamins, minerals, good fats and antioxidants, and there’s nothing easier or more comforting to whip up: fried, scrambled, boiled, poached…you name it; but just because I’m a big fan of eggs, does not mean I am a fan of battery farming hens and mistreating animals. In fact, I never buy cheap, battery farmed eggs.

We must apply the same logic here.

Where do these stem cells come from?

Being quite unique little unspecialised cells, stem cells are only found in a few places. They can be found in bone marrow, bone marrow peripheral blood, cord blood, and human embryos.

Here is where the hesitation comes. We cannot applaud the destruction of human embryos for sourcing or experimentation of stem cells. Embryos collected from the IVF industry are experimented on because their cells have not yet specialised and have the ability to grow into any part of our bodies. However, each one of the cells in their tiny embryonic bodies has a unique set of DNA – the instruction manual from his/her parents, which will determine how and who these little embryos will grow into: the sex, ethnicity, hair colour, eye colour and so on.

We need to make noise about adult stem cells

Stem cells don’t have to, and shouldn’t be, collected from embryos – quite the contrary, and we should be singing and dancing trying to raise awareness about adult stem cells.

Did you know:
you could donate your cord blood into a stem cell blood bank after giving birth? This blood which is normally thrown away could save a life!
Or… you could sign up to be a stem cell donor, just like you give blood.

Not only are adult stem cells infinitely more ethical, they are also infinitely more successful.

Adult stem cells save thousands of lives every year having been utterly ethically sourced through willing adult volunteers. Embryonic stem cells have a zero success rate of treating any illness, as a result of being too immature to control and are sourced from living human embryos that are then discarded.

Let’s show our support

Both the All Party Parliamentary Group on Stem Cell Transplantation and the Anthony Nolan charity do fantastic work saving the lives of patients in desperate need of treatment; they work solely with adult stem cells. In response to a question regarding the ethics of stem cell treatments, the Anthony Nolan charity was crystal clear in its response:

“We work with blood stem cells from living adults or with umbilical cord blood. We do not conduct research into embryonic stem cells. Anthony Nolan places the welfare of donors and patients at the heart of our work.”

We must be vigilant and careful in checking the ethics of news regarding stem cells. But we mustn’t be quiet about adult stem cells!

The prolife movement must be forward looking, positive and brimming with compassion, therefore we must wholeheartedly support adult stem cell treatments, distinguishing them clearly from any experimentation on embryos.

I thoroughly encourage you to explore https://www.anthonynolan.org/facts-and-stats and to sign up to their donor register – I just have!

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