Embryonic Stem-cell Research is the study of the natural nutrients inside an unborn fetus. For patients and their families, embryonic stem cell research offers the hope of cures for chronic and debilitating conditions, such as juvenile diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, spinal cord injuries and blindness and regrow nerves. For scientists, it represents a revolutionary path to discovering the causes and cures for many more human diseases. Embryonic stem cells are pluripotent, that is, they have the unique ability to develop into any of the 220 cell types in the human body. In addition to their versatility, embryonic stem cells are easier to grow in the laboratory than adult stem cells.
For the Catholic Church and many other Christian groups, life begins at conception, making the research mean homicide because it results in the destruction of human embryos. "Human embryos obtained in vitro are human beings and are subjects with rights; their dignity and right to life must be respected from the first moment of their existence," the late Pope John Paul II wrote in his 1995 encyclical, The Gospel of Life. Other religious groups do not take a position on the issue, and some, including many Jewish and more liberal Christian groups, support embryonic stem cell research.
For many, the fundamental issue is the moral status of tiny, one-week-old human embryos, no bigger than a pinprick. In each one are so-called stem cells that can grow into any kind of human tissue. Scientists think these cells can help them find cures for many severe illnesses. But harvesting those cells kills the embryos. Ethicists say the right and wrong of destroying even unwanted embryos in order to do promising medical research depends on what you think those embryos are. If they have the moral status of persons, many argue, then they can not be treated as a means to even the most humanitarian end.