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Thursday, May 23, 2024

There is a massive philosophical question surrounding the use of stem cells in medical research. Part of this question exists because the communication of scientific information in this country is crap. The myths oftentimes are inseparable from the facts. This is why, embarrassingly enough for us, only 70 percent of Americans believe in climate change, while an overwhelming 97 percent of scientists accept it as valid.

But this editorial is not about the truth of stem cell research, which, for the record, does not employ “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” organ-harvesting practices. It is simply about an actual miracle that recently happened as a direct result of stem cell research.

Kristopher Boesen of Bakersfield, California was involved in a horrific car accident several months ago. On March 6, he was driving on a wet road and crashed his car into a telephone pole, resulting in an injury to his spine that left him paralyzed from the neck down.

Two months later, Boesen began a clinical trial in which stem cells were injected into the damaged part of the spine. Roughly two weeks after this surgery, Boesen began to show faint signs of motor function. Today, Boesen is able to feed himself, hold his cellphone up to his face, hug his parents and write his name. This man went from being unable to move to being able to brush his teeth. Have you ever tried brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand? It feels disgusting.

Now, dear reader, listen carefully. There is no promise of Boesen’s long-term success. The doctors involved in ihis case study are rightfully apprehensive to comment on his future. Although things are looking up right now, experts in this field are, well, experts, not psychics. It would be irresponsible and simply unfounded for them to make predictions.

Regardless, a wall has been torn down in the scientific world with this study. Boesen has proven there is something serious to investigate in the ability for undeveloped and undifferentiated cells to repair even the most tragic destructions of the human body.

This moral question is therefore required: How do we generate such stem cells? The most controversial and popular answer is embryos. Although we fully support a woman’s right to do what she wants with her body, we recognize quite obviously that seeds aren’t trees. Even if you accidentally planted a seed in your living room, or as awful as it is, someone planted a seed in your living room without your consent, you’re allowed to claim your living room back. We’re just not getting into that. Nope.

There is a way to avoid all that controversy. In 2007, it was discovered that two human by-products could be converted into stem cells: skin cells and menstrual blood. When you read that, you might have wrinkled your nose, squinted your eyes and felt gross. Get over it. Such a by-product is incredibly easy to collect, subverts the traditional problems found in tissue rejection and completely steers away from that moral question embryos carry. It may seem icky on the surface, but do you really think someone in Boesen’s case gives a hoot that period blood donations helped him regain control of his body? Of his life?

If, for some reason, you stand against the scientific exploration of stem cells, despite knowing full well embryos are not a necessary component to this research, you really ought to reconsider how much value you truly put on human life. Such research made a difference in Boesen’s life. And Boesen could be any one of us.

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