Pro Life or Pro Choice Amniotic Stem Cells may Open new Door

Pro-choice and pro-life individuals often feel that they have little in common. In the extreme, prolife groups are perceived as righteous moralizers who use politics and pictures of dead babies to sway public opinion away from life-saving research. On the other hand, prochoice groups are often portrayed as feminists and baby killers, or murderous sympathy mongers “faking” a terminal illness, such as Michael J. Fox.

Is it possible that these divergent interests could possibly agree on a course of action to cure disease through medical research?

A new breakthrough in embryonic stem cell research may bridge the divide. Scientists at Wake Forest University School of Medicine have found that approximately 1% of the cells in amniotic fluid are undifferentiated stem cells, identical to those procured from an embryo. Removing amniotic fluid does not require invasion or termination of an embryo/ fetus, because amniotic fluid is simply the fluid that a baby floats in until birth, which is released when a pregnant woman’s “water breaks”.

Stem cells are amazingly versatile. They are “blank slate” cells that have not yet developed into an organ or tissue. Even more importantly, hormones can trigger a stem cell to develop into any cell in the body. If a stem cell is placed near developing eye tissues, for example, it will become part of an eye, or if doused with liver hormones, it will develop into a liver cell. Men and women who have lost part of their kidneys or brain tissue in a car accident or due to Parkinson’s disease could theoretically grow these missing parts back with enough stem cells. Scientists have even considered using stem cells to treat baldness – by using hormones to develop the stem cells into hair follicles, and then implanting these brand new growing hairs into a bald person’s scalp.

However, the ethical controversy surrounding using tissues from a “dead baby” to grow hair for bald people, cure cancer, or even save the lives of many suffering terminal illness, has effectively put a halt to federal funding and severely limited the cell lines that scientists are able to experiment with.

Fortunately, extracting stem cells from amniotic fluid does not harm the baby at all, and appears to be an ethical breakthrough that will provide an unlimited supply of viable stem cells to scientists and clinical researchers to develop cures.