What Came From Fat?

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As far back as 2001, creationists pointed to liposuctioned fat as a source of stem cells that didn’t require the destruction of embryonic human life. Good to see secular scientists catching on.

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Nearly two years ago, researchers discovered a method to transform skin cells into pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, the stem cells that can become other cell types (e.g., neural, cardiac, cartilage, and others). These iPS cells could lead to cures for various disorders and to organ regrowth and regeneration. This important breakthrough undermined the perceived need to destroy human life in order to harvest stem cells (especially since so-called embryonic stem cells have proven harmful to recipients).

Fat cells are easier to “program” for use throughout the body.

Now a group of doctors and plastic surgeons at the Stanford University School of Medicine has turned to what one researcher calls a “readily available, great natural resource”: fat cells. The benefits of using fat cells to make iPS cells is that one liter of fat produces hundreds of millions of stem cells, they take less time to be cultured (twice as quickly as skin cells), and they are easier to “program” for use throughout the body. And most patients have a few fat cells they’d be willing to donate.

Don’t expect to see this new method in a clinic near you for a few years, however. Any new treatments must first pass clinical testing and receive FDA approval. In addition, there are still many questions regarding the efficacy of these stem cells, the time required to “coach” them before reintroducing them to the patient, and safety concerns.

For Christians, new sources of God-honoring stem cells are always good news. Even if embryonic stem cells (ESC) had proven useful (which remains in serious doubt), there’s no justification for destroying one life to save another. The model for Christians is to lay down one’s life for others—not to take life away for one’s own selfish gain.

Even as far back as 2001, Ken Ham argued that there was no reason to study ESCs, since

non-embryonic stem cells have had proven laboratory and clinical successes and don’t require any loss of human life. For example, stem cells have been extracted from hippocampal and periventricular regions of the brain, umbilical cord blood, pancreatic ducts, hair follicles, skin biopsies, and liposuctioned fat.

There was never any excuse to rely on ESCs when so many other viable and ethical sources are—and have been—available. This new research simply emphasizes the fact that adult stem cells are worth their weight (pun intended).

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