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Right to Recover ~ Winning the Political and Religious Wars Over Stem Cell Research in America presents scientific facts that challenge readers to think for themselves rather than accept political or religious views on stem cell research.


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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Define it, then call it what it is

I do not call the research being done on blastocyst stem cells "embyronic" stem cell research because the research is not done on an embyro as most people imagine it. The research is performed using in-vitro blastocysts--a microscopic clump of cells that have no blood, no tissues, no organs.

When an ovum is joined with a spermatozoon (whether in-vitro or inside the female body) fertilization occurs and the two parts become one cell. This is a fertilized egg also known as a zygote. Within hours this cell divides into two identical cells, which also divide. By the fourth day the cell cluster has divided to reach approximately 16 cells, and it is called a morula. The division/multiplication process continues for about five days until a hollow sphere of about 32 cells is formed along with a fluid filled cavity. This sphere or cluster of primordial cells is then called a blastocyst.

A blastocyst has an inner and outer layer of cells. The outer layer (called the trophectoderm) will form the placenta and other tissue needed to support development in the uterus. The inner cells are undifferentiated or unspecific in what they will become but they are able to form any type of cell found in a human body. If the entire blastocyst is inserted into the uterus, it must implant itself and begin to draw nourishment from the mother in order to move to the next stage of development. IF implantation (conception) occurs, the resulting embryo will become a fetus at eight weeks which will develop into a human baby within nine months.

The leftover in-vitro blastocysts used for stem cell research are cultured in lab containers outside the human body where a single cell may continue to divide up to 100 times. These newly developed undifferentiated cells are what researchers are studying. They are not little embryos with tiny toes and fingers. They are cells. Nothing but cells.

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