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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Is a Blastocyst a Human Being?

Gregory Koukl has a Web site about Embryonic Stem Cell Research. It may be a blog, but if it is, I found no place to leave a comment or interact with others, so I'm bringing the conversation here to my blog.

Gregory's article shows that he is somewhat open-minded, but still believes that a blastocyst and a human being are the same thing. In his post, he wrote:

"The question is what kind of embryo is it? And in this case the embryos are human embryos, the blastula are human blastula. You have to have a human being before you can get human stem cells......There is no difference. You cannot get human embryonic stem cells but from a human embryo. So, you must create a human being first in its embryo stage, which then is either allowed to grow into subsequent stages, fetus, newborn, adolescent, etc., or is destroyed before it can begin to develop into other stages and is then cut up an used for body parts. But it still is what it is when it is destroyed — a human being in a blastula stage."

I'm not sure exactly what he means by "cut up and used for body parts," but let's move to the question at hand. Is a blastocyst an human being?

Yes, and no. It is, and it is not.

Yes, because a fertilized egg is a stage covered in the term "embryo" used to describe the first two months of developmental stages in human gestation, it would not be incorrect to call it an embryo. That definition came about before in-vitro processes were discovered. The in-vitro process has shown there are two parts to what was once considered a single process: fertilization and conception. I won't elaobrate here and get side-tracked, but I encourage you to read my article at www.ezinearticles.com in order to learn the difference between fertilization and conception.

No, because other terms are used to differentiate the developmental stages. For example: the term "zygote" is used to label a single-cell fertilized egg. As that cell begins to divide, it creates a 16-cell cluster known as a "morula". The division process continues for about five days until a hollow sphere of about 32 cells is formed along with a fluid filled cavity. Then, it is called a "blastocyst".

This clump of cells leftover from in-vitro attempts is what scientists use for stem cell research. The cells would otherwise be discarded if the donating couple did not want to pay to continue to have them kept frozen at the lab. At this point, the blastocyst is like a seed with the potential to become a human embryo, but it is not a fish-like embryo as you might picture in your mind. It is a tiny cluster of cells with no blood, no nerves, and no organs. A blastocyst cannot continue to development into an embryo in a laboratory.

So, is a blastocyst a human being? Is an acorn an oak tree?

An acorn has the potential to become an oak tree if conditions are suitable, but an acorn is not an oak tree. So, when does an acorn become an oak tree? Once it has implanted into the soil, started to receive nourishment and has sprouted.

It is the same with an in-vitro blastocyst. The egg or "seed" has been fertilized but it has not been implanted into the fertile "soil" of a woman's womb. It has the potential of becoming a human being, but a blastocyst is not a human being. A human being is an organism, a blastocyst is not.

My book, Right to Recover, Winning the Political and Religious Wars over Stem Cell Research in America will cover in detail this and many other topics concerning stem cell research.

Bookmark this page and check back often. The book should be available in late summer 2007.

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