Saturday, December 18, 2004

Stem Cells in the News Again

Among the items debated during the recent presidential campaign was the question of the ban on stem cell research put in place by President Bush. Critics of the policy argued that stem cell research was essential; while supporters of the ban cited the grotesque practice of harvesting stem cells from aborted fetuses. It seems, in many ways, that the debate about stem cell research is an extension of the debate about abortion.

As has been noted here before, it is important to distinguish between stem cells taken from embryos, and those taken from a donor, even an adult. To date, as far as I have seen, there is little or no evidence that embryonic stem cells, regardless of the potential many claim exists, are the "magic bullet" that some researchers are seeking. On the other hand, there is dramatic evidence that the stem cells taken from one's own body may have a powerful impact in the healing process. The latest such case is reported by the Associated Press, in which stem cells derived from fat have helped in the restoration of the skull of a seven-year-old girl in Germany. Dr. Hans-Peter Howaldt of the Justus-Liebig-University Medical School in Giessen, Germany, who performed the surgery, said the damage to the girl's skull, caused by a fall about two years ago, affecting some nineteen square inches of her skull, was too extensive to be repaired with bone grafts from her body. He said the hope was that if bits of the child’s bone were mixed with stem cells, the cells would turn into bone-building cells that would create additional bone. This is apparently what has happened, although Dr. Howaldt reports that there is no conclusive evidence that the stem cells were essential to the process. However, the girl, whose brain could be seen in places where the skull had been destroyed prior to the procedure, now has a complete skull, and no longer needs to wear a protective helmet.

Isn't it amazing what we've learned to do? Isn't it amazing how wonderfully God has designed us, and all of creation? How can we fail to recognize His handiwork? How can we fail to give Him praise and glory, in wonder and amazement at all He has done for us? Glory to Thee, O Lord; glory to Thee!