The Stem Cell Divide: The Facts, the Fiction, and the Fear Driving the Greatest Scientific, Political, and Religious Debate of Our Time

The Stem Cell Divide: The Facts, the Fiction, and the Fear Driving the Greatest Scientific, Political, and Religious Debate of Our Time

The Stem Cell Divide: The Facts, the Fiction, and the Fear Driving the Greatest Scientific, Political, and Religious Debate of Our Time

The Stem Cell Divide: The Facts, the Fiction, and the Fear Driving the Greatest Scientific, Political, and Religious Debate of Our Time

Synopsis

"There has been much recent debate about the merits, dangers, and nature of stem cell research. Some see in it the answer to every debilitating disease known to man, while others see it as a step away from human cloning.

While the battle has raged, research is moving ahead, and California has already passed a measure that will give $3 billion in support to stem cell research. But as politics, religion, and the media weigh in on this complex issue, more and more of the scientific reality of stem cell research is getting lost.

In the search for the truth about stem cell science, the author has interviewed the scientists whose cutting-edge research is at the very heart of this hot-button issue. The book explains what they have accomplished so far, what they're currently doing, and what they see on the horizon.

The Stem Cell Divide does not take sides, and the author debunks the distortions and exaggerations that come from every camp. This book does not tell readers what to think, but gives them the facts necessary to form their own opinions about one of the most divisive, complex, and potentially life-changing developments in history."

Excerpt

The term “cell” comes from the Latin word cella, or “small room.” Robert Hooke, a seventeenth-century Renaissance man, coined the term when he first peered through his handcrafted, leather- and gold-tooled microscope at a piece of cork. Reportedly, he came up with the name when the little cells he saw through the microscope reminded him of the small rooms that housed medieval monks.

In humans and other forms of animal life, stem cells are the special, primal structures in the body that retain two special traits: first, the ability to divide indefinitely, and second, the ability to differentiate into other cell types.

These traits are at the root of why stem cells are a source of both order and chaos, representing miracle cure and societal curse. Specifically, the cells that show the most potential can only be retrieved with great difficulty—and through the destruction of a human embryo.

It’s possible that these “embryonic” stem cells may lead to great things in the future. But in the here and now, religious conservatives see their destruction as nothing more than a high-tech form of cannibalism.

Belief over what is right permeates the field of stem cell study and its researchers. In the course of my investigation for this book, very rarely did I encounter any person on either side of the issue who held the slightest doubt whether they were on the side of the “just.”

To take one example: In mid-2005, I was interviewing an embryonic stem cell researcher when I asked: “How do you deal with . . .

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