The Truth... What is it?

Glossary: Procreation to personhood.

I was asked by my pastor to help present some information about stem cells as part of a 14 June 2005 Wednesday night group discussion of several topics. Even with the below genetic info, anyone who has known identical twins knows that even they are different in every respect (we all differ & are unique).
The tabulation at the end sheds light on how much has advanced with ADULT (not embryonic)
STEM CELLS. Even more mysterious is the issue of when does the soul enter the developing human? The soul plus the biological individual combine (ensoulment) to make a "person" [person definition] with legal protections in the USA against homicide...murder. As of the summer of 2015, I have not found any clear Biblical support for when ensoulment takes place.

The goal was to portray that a large number of biological factors & facts are in play, and that Christians might rightly be perplexed as to how the ethics in such issues could be clear and uniformly agreed upon in the face of complicated scenarios. That is, what is the information that causes good people to differ...
information that is a basis as to why a black and white position for believers to uniformly take is not reasonable? Since that topic is not directly part of what I do as a pathologist, I had little idea how complex this and related issues are. The following is a glossary of related scientific terms. Related issues are abortion, artificial means of achieving pregnancy, and postmortem sperm recovery and preservation, preservation of tissue for cloning, and issues of tissue and organ transplantation or tissue selling. Thanks to Gail & Rich for help. Also, readers may be surprised by this "life" timeline!

Abortion: Natural or artificial termination of pregnancy. In the USA in 1990, out of 10,000 natural pregnancies,1855 make it to “live birth” (18.6%); the rest are lost naturally (most extremely early, fail to implant properly & about 5000 very early as spontaneous natural abortions, almost all of these latter having failed to form the embryo…"blighted embryo") and about 583 “legally aborted.”

Blastocyst: The fertilized egg divides each 24 hours through day #5. The blastocyst is the very early phase of the embryo from about age 5-13 days of pregnancy and is the phase which implants in uterus lining about 5 days after fertilization, just after "hatching" at the end of day 5.

Cell: The eukaryotic (has a nucleus) cell is the basic building block of all tissues (organs) in the body.  Each cell is like a hen's egg, having a sac (membrane) to hold the cytoplasm ("egg white") and nucleus ("yolk") together as a unit. Sex cells are egg and sperm (each with half the chromosomes..."haploid").  All others are somatic cells (46 chromsomes), some being "stem cells". Embryonic stem cells make up the pre-embryo (a stage smaller than a grain of sand). Adult stem cells (somatic stem cells) are in blood, bone marrow, brain, placenta, fat, skin and other body tissues; these can be obtained from oneself and not require matching. Stem cells are primitive re-creating cells. See reference #9, below.

Chromosome: One of the 46 physical structures found in the nucleus of cells, each composed of DNA and proteins that form a string of genes like a necklace. Humans have 46 chromosomes: half from mom and half from dad. Two of them are the sex chromosomes…two “X” chromosomes in the case of females
or an “X” and a “Y” in the case of males

Chromosome abnormality: A chromosome that has become damaged. The damage may be due to a break in the chromosome’s linear sequence, a deletion of part of the chromosome, or movement of part of a chromosome to a place where it is not normally found, such as the end of some other chromosome

Conceptus: The combined placental and embryonic tissue from conception through about 4 weeks. The placenta (afterbirth) is the baby's organ that brings baby's and mother's blood extremely close together to exchange oxygen and nutrition. In my professional opinion as a pathologist, a new biological life begins at conception that is viable & begins a new human being. I have no real professional or biblical idea thus far when the soul (ensoulment) comes in to complete the beginning of a new person. But, as the data above notes, nearly 50% of new pregancies (the new conceptus) naturally fail to develope sufficiently in the first three months & spontaneously miscarry. So, my guess is that ensoulment a minimum, a month after conception.

Deoxynucleic acid (DNA): The chemical blueprint information molecule used by most biological systems to construct genes, located in the cell nucleus and as the DNA in the mitochondria (bacteria-like energy units) within cell cytoplasm.

Differentiate: To change or morph from a primitive nondescript beginner stem cell into a "finished" or "specialized" cell such as muscle, brain, or fat, etc.

Embryo: The stage of the developing baby from zygote to the end of about 8 weeks (56 days) of age (from fertilization). It is a "pre-embryo" prior to day 14 (primitive streaks). The 8 week baby is about 1 ¼ inches in length. With the naked eye exam, sex can't be determined on the outside but can be on
the inside (presence or absence of a visible uterus at about 7-8 weeks).

Epigenetic: Factors making an influence on genes that are not actually intrinsic gene factors.

Fertilization: One sperm penetrates jelly-like egg shell 1-2 days after ovulation and instant chemical reaction almost always hardens and closes the shell to any more sperm…and then 6-10 hours elapses before sperm and egg chromosomes combine. After combining chromosomes, the cell is then a zygote which now has its own unique DNA fingerprint and designation to be a boy or girl.

Fetus: The stage of the developing baby from the end of the embryonic period (beginning of 9th week of baby's age) to birth. The age of viability (when baby can survive outside of momma) is generally considered to be age 22-26 weeks (near end 2nd trimester), just over 1 pound (about 500 grams)…but it depends on circumstances and technology where born.

Gamete: Father's sperm cells (have nuclear but not mitochondrial DNA) and mother's egg cells (have both nuclear & mitochondrial DNA) are the two forms of gametes. These sex cells have the special property of carrying only one copy of each chromosome instead of two copies that somatic cells carry. These cells contribute to the next generation, and they and their precursors are called
“germ line” cells. Sperm cells get to the egg within 5-30 minutes after male ejaculation in the sex act.

Gene: A DNA-containing segment of a chromosome which corresponds to the blueprint-like biological information that describes production of a single protein (proteins are "action molecules").

Gene expression: Not every gene is expressed (is “active”) in every cell. Expression refers to whether the protein coded by a gene is expressed (actually produced) or not.

Gene therapy: The introduction of DNA (or other agent or therapy) into a cell or animal to cause the expression (“turning on of production”) of a particular protein, often one that can replace a missing or defective protein that may be responsible for a disease.

Genotype: The particular array of genes a person is “dealt” (as to the underlying “blueprint” for any trait or feature). At about the 3rd day following fertilization, the embryo's gene expression fades from mother's influence to its own influences on gene expression which results in a phenotype.

Heterozygous genes: Describes the situation where cells or organisms carry two different copies…versions (alleles)…of a given gene. For example, one of the copies of a gene may be the normal version and one an abnormal version.

Homozygous genes: Describes the situation where both copies of a given gene are the same.

Life: Begins biologically at conception/fertilization, though the biological wheels are in motion sooner (mother's eggs present and containing chromosomes since before that mother's birth).

Ovulation: Release of "ripe" egg from ovary about 14 days after last day of menstrual bleeding.
Penetrance: The degree to which the genotype gene “blueprint” coding results in a similar phenotype. There is a spectrum of possible phenotypic manifestation of a trait from undetectable phenotype to “full blown” phenotype…the degree of penetrance.

Phenotype: The actual manifestation of what the underlying genotypic “blueprint” codes for. In, for example, twins: the nucleus genetic DNA ("genotype") is identical; but the mitochondria in the egg cytoplasm from the mother unevenly populate the divided fertilized cell. As we all know, identical twins do have differences. And these differences have to do with the combined effect of (1) differences in penetrance of genetic and mitochondrial DNA blueprint info in the two twin persons and any (2) differences caused by epigenetic factors that affect one embryo but not the other. The two are said to differ in "phenotypic expression"...each has a slightly different phenotype.

Pregnancy: Most define the state of pregnancy as from the time of fertilization to the time of delivery; some date it from the estimated date of the ovulation of the egg that got fertilized to the date of delivery of baby. Some define pregnancy as from implantation onward…the joining of mother and baby.  Implantation is usually inside the uterus; if any other location, it is an “ectopic pregnancy”. at about age 3 weeks, embryo blood forms (God hates hands that shed innocent blood"…Proverbs 6:17).

Protein: The primary component of cells. A string of linked amino acids whose order is specified by a gene. Proteins build up most of the structures in cells and act as little machines that work together inside of cells to accomplish most of the things cells do, the cells ultimately being coordinated into what humans

POC (products of conception): The aggregate of embryo, placenta, and any other tissue removed by abortion (natural or artificial).

RNA (ribonucleic acid): the nucleolus situated within the nucleus is made up of protein & ribosomal DNA (rDNA & ) & produces ribosomes (made of ribosomal RNA) exported to & residing in the cytoplasm as protein factories.

Soul: Does human and Biblical life begin in the conceptus at the biological beginning or at implantation or later when the soul enters…when does the soul enter? Would souls be placed during a phase of at least 50% natural loss of pregnancy (conception through 8 weeks)? Is that when personhood begins?
"Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you…" (Jeremiah 1:5). Or, is the soul put in at the age of viability or as the baby is being born? I don't know of any evidence from the Bible.

Zygote: The name for an embryo from conception to about 64 cells...which now has its own unique DNA fingerprint and designation to be a boy or girl.


Links & related stuff/issues:

1. ELCA web file:

2. Dr. Gail Whitman-Elia's (West Columbia) website:

3. Augusta long-term sperm & pre-embryo frozen storage:

4. CDC fertility center stats file:

5. on-line "apologetics" discussion:

6. "There are now [2008] about 2000 clinical trials underway exploring therapies based on the use of adult stem cells, nearly one third of which involve autologous, where the donor and the recipient are the one and the same." (Robin Smith, MD, CEO of NeoStem, "Health Insurance You Can Count On". July/August 2008 issue of Biotechnology Healthcare.

7. measures to select having boy or girl...gender selection...this website just for you to check out the topic (note fees page) [here].

8. genetic measures to estimate fertility age span...biological clock...for women (some are "super-breeders" and fertile into late forties)...June 3 2005 report from Denmark.

9. some 66 diseases & 6000 cases have been treated by placental cord blood adult stem cells [Heritage Foundation, Robert Mofitt, PhD]

10. about stem cells from [here]

11. saving umbilical cord blood when your baby is born: few parents are doing this and obstetricians in the Carolinas are not advising it because (a) a company would then have a sample of child's (and family) DNA without guarantee it would not get into the wrong hands, and (b) because the
 likelihood of ever needing it is so slim...hard to justify the cost. Yet, if you want to do it, many hospitals can cooperate.

12. saw a Discovery Health program the week on 15 August 2005, Medical Incredible, "Skinned Alive", in which a patient reacted to an antibiotic & lost all skin to a dramatic disease called TEN and was covered in a wrapping containing adult stem cells grown from newborn baby foreskins...saved her life!

13. I attended a Palmetto Family Council supper 22 September 2005; guest speaker Michael Medved noted that many medical breakthroughs are occurring with adult (somatic) stem cells but not one human has been cured of anything with embryonic stem cells.

14. Aug. 2005 announcement that Harvard researchers found a way to use existing lab-grown embryonic stem cells to reprogram an individual's own donated skin somatic adult stem cells into an embryonic-like "personal" stem cell which exactly genetically matches that person.  [ Chad A. Cowan, Jocelyn Atienza, Douglas A. Melton, and Kevin Eggan, Nuclear Reprogramming of Somatic Cells After Fusion with Human Embryonic, Science 26 August 2005; 309: 1369-1373].

15. 24 Aug. 2006 announcement in journal Nature misrepresented that single embryonic stem cells can be removed from embryos & "coaxed" to grow into colonies for experimentation. The announcement left the impression that the embryos were not harmed & failed to disclose that no embryo survived the procedure.

16. 11 October 2006 issue of Journal of the American Medical Association
 (JAMA 296 [14]:1775-1778) A review of the theories of how the "morning after" birth control over-the-counter (OTC) brand of which is "Plan B". Depending on when taken, it may affect the sperm or implantation.

17. late 2006 & early 2007...excellent series about "in the womb" on National Geographic channel...see their website.

18. On 7 June 2007, newspapers announced that researchers have been able to convert skin cells into embryonic stem cells. I think there will be no problem translating this research to human skin conversions. Nov 2007, two publications: the journal Cell Volume 131 Issue 4: November 16, 2007, and Science magazine Vol 115 the discovery of methods to induce stem cells from skin cells. Charles Krauthammer notes in a 12/2/07 op ed piece that James A. Thomson was the discoverer of "stem cells" about 1997 and said then, "If human embryonic stem cell research does not make you at least a little bit uncomfortable, you have not thought about it enough." Thomson is one of those, above, recently discovering how to produce & harvest this "skin" source. With this discovery, Krauthammer has pronounced the moral debate as "over".

19. From the 8/22/07 e-issue of Chuck Colson's BreakPoint letter, the story of Carron Morrow, "Your Own [adult] Stem Cells Work!" [read a version here] Her own adult stem cells (or a placebo) were injected in her disastrous heart 10/2006 (it turned out when the study code was broken in 4/07 that she had gotten her own stem cells). As Colson goes on to note, "the list of people being helped or cured by adult stem cell procedures has become almost too long to keep track of. Medical advances just in the last few months include using adult stem cells from bone marrow to create heart valves. They've been used to successfully treat children with juvenile diabetes, and patients with lupus, liver cancer, paralysis, and Parkinson's. Absolutely remarkable." By 2014, there may be more sober views of future potentials (internet search terms, stem cell therapy). Yet in July 2015, a block-buster series of video/audion undercover exposures by Center for Medical Progress was brought to the news with multiple videos showing officials with Planned Parenthood talking negotiations over selling fetal parts to "science".

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(posted 15 June 2005; latest addition 5 August 2015)