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Friday, December 26, 2008

Is a Blastocyst an Organism?

What is an Organism?

To give you an idea of why semantics are important to the study of blastocyst (embryonic) cells, I’ll give several definitions for the term organism.

An individual form of life, such as a plant, animal, bacterium, protist (free-living or colonial organisms with diverse nutritional and reproductive modes), or fungus; a body made up of organs, organelles, or other parts that work together to carry on the various processes of life. [i]

An individual self-sustaining unit of life or living material. Five forms of organisms are known: plants, animals, fungi, protists, and bacteria.[ii]

In biology and ecology, an organism is a living complex adaptive system of organs that influence each other in such a way that they function in some way as a stable whole.[iii]

A living being whose physiological functions are carried out by subunits, or “organs” (like a heart or a liver), which are separate in function but mutually dependent.[iv]

By any of these definitions, an in-vitro created blastocyst is not an organism because it does not have organs; it is not self-sustaining; and it is not functioning as a whole.

If it's not an organism, it's not a human being.
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[i] “Definition of Organism.” Yahoo Education. 11 March 2007. http://education.yahoo.com/reference/dictionary/entry/organism

[ii] “Glossary of Selected Terms.” Science and Technology/Engineering Curriculum Framework. 11 March 2007. http://www.doe.mass.edu/frameworks/scitech/2001/resources/glossary.html

[iii] “Organism.” Wikipedia. 11 March 2007. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organism

[iv] “Terms. Organism.” About Got it. 11 March 2007. http://www.cs.uu.nl/people/ronnie/local/genome/o.html

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