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Cell Division Homework #2 Answers In Genesis

There are few issues in our society that raise as many emotional and ethical concerns as cloning and stem cells.

There are few issues in our society that raise as many emotional and ethical concerns as cloning and stem cells. Scientists, journalists, special interest groups, and even patients themselves regularly bombard us with their particular views on this issue. How are we to know what to think regarding these issues? How do we separate fact from fiction? Since cloning and stem cells are two separate (but related) issues, we will deal with them individually.

What Is Cloning?

Cloning is a process by which a genetically identical copy of a gene, an entire cell, or even an organism is produced. For this chapter, we will confine the discussion primarily to the cloning of an entire organism. This is a topic about which there is much misinformation. It is also a subject that raises some very serious ethical issues.

Cloning as usually understood is an artificial process, meaning it is carried out in a laboratory setting. It can and does, however, occur regularly in nature. There are organisms (e.g., bacteria, protists, and some plants) that typically reproduce by asexual reproduction. Here a genetically identical copy of the parent is produced by the splitting of a single cell (the parent cell).

Identical twins are also clones. In fact, identical twins have been called “natural clones” since splitting of a fertilized egg causes this, producing two copies of the same organism.

It is the issue of artificial cloning that has captured the interest of so many in our society. This process has garnered much attention in recent years, especially with the birth of the famous sheep, Dolly. Actually, many different types of animals have been cloned including tadpoles, mice, cats, sheep, cattle, a horse, and others.

How Is a Clone Made?

The simplest method for making a clone is to remove the nucleus (containing the organism’s DNA) from a somatic (body) cell in the animal you want to clone. You then take an egg cell (from the same type of animal) that has had its own nucleus removed, and you place the donor nucleus into the egg cell. This is called somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). This egg is grown briefly in a test tube and then implanted into the womb of an adult animal. If there are no complications, at the end of gestation an animal is born with an identical genetic makeup of the donor animal. As one might imagine, the process is technically quite difficult. Let’s use the aforementioned Dolly as an example. It took 277 eggs that ultimately produced 29 embryos and only one living sheep to create Dolly.1 This is consistent with the failure rate for other animals. As can be seen, many embryos are wasted in these attempts.

It should also be noted that Dolly died at age six. She apparently died of a respiratory infection. Some have suggested that she exhibited signs of premature aging, but others have disputed these reports. The strongest speculation is that her early death was due to shortening of telomeres. Telomeres are segments of DNA that exist on the ends of chromosomes. They progressively shorten with age due to repeated cell division until they reach a point that no further replication of the chromosome can occur. Since Dolly was cloned from a 6-year-old sheep, it could be said that Dolly’s DNA when she died was actually 12 years old. The telomere issue remains a significant problem for those involved in cloning research.

How Can Cloning Be Used?

There are two main purposes for cloning: to produce an identical organism (reproductive cloning) or to produce a cloned embryo for the purpose of obtaining embryonic stem cells (therapeutic cloning). There are those who promote reproductive cloning in many different areas. For example, cloning of certain animals used for food or for animals used in specific work environments has been suggested. This has also been proposed as a possible solution for the rescue of many endangered species. Although it is far beyond our present technology, some have theorized that the extinct woolly mammoth or even dinosaurs might in the future be produced through reproductive cloning!

Therapeutic cloning is aimed at producing cloned embryos from which embryonic stem cells may be obtained. This is done ostensibly to use the stem cells to treat disease or illness. While this is laudable in one sense, there are serious ethical issues that arise (see the following stem cell section).

The obvious next step would be to consider cloning a human being. There are those who advocate therapeutic cloning of humans to provide an adequate supply of embryonic stem cells. It has even been suggested by some that humans should be reproductively cloned in order to provide a ready reserve of tissues and organs should they ever be needed. The clone would simply be “spare parts,” to be used at the discretion of the “parent” human.

So What’s the Problem?

If man is just another animal, just a higher form of pond scum, there really is no problem. Cloning a person is totally justifiable. Just make copies of ourselves and chop them up as we please. People are nothing special.

But those of us who trust in God’s Word know there is a problem here. We are not just a higher form of pond scum. We are not just animals. We are made in the image of the Creator.

And God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness . . .” (Genesis 1:26, ASV).

Therefore, humans are not to be created at man’s whim. Rather, we are a special creation of our Father in heaven.

What Is a Stem Cell?

Simply put, a stem cell is a cell in the body (or in an embryo) that has the capability of turning into many specialized cell types. At the time of conception, when the sperm and egg unite, we consist of only one cell. Ultimately, as this cell divides into two cells, then four, then eight, and so on, the roughly 200 different cell types in the body must be produced. This process can occur because of stem cells.

A stem cell is a cell in the body (or in an embryo) that has the capability of turning into many specialized cell types.

The very earliest cells produced after fertilization are called totipotent because they have the capability of turning into any other cell type in the body as well as extra-embryonic cell types such as those which form the placenta. As cells divide and begin to specialize (a process called differentiation), the stem cells along these pathways lose the ability to produce certain types of cells. At this point they are called pluripotent in that they can still develop into all the tissue types of the body but not the extra-embryonic tissue types. After further differentiation, the cells become multipotent, meaning the number of potential cell types that can be derived from them has been reduced. This process continues until cells are only able to produce cells of one type.

Along the way, some stem cells stop differentiating and merely reproduce themselves, thereby giving the body a reservoir of stem cells. These cells then provide a source of new cells for tissue replacement and repair.

Why Are Stem Cells Important?

Medical researchers are interested in stem cells for their potential to treat various diseases. For example, stem cells that could be induced to change into insulin-secreting cells could help cure those with diabetes. Patients with damage to the spinal cord could benefit from new nerve tissue generated from stem cells. Those suffering from heart muscle damage after a heart attack might be able to have new heart muscle derived from stem cells. Think about Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease . . . the list of potential interventions based on stem cell therapy seems almost endless.

This research is very important. It is certainly one of the most exciting medical advances in our lifetime. Physicians strive to relieve the suffering of their patients. Who among them would not want to have available a means to cure many horrible diseases? This research has so much potential. However, that potential comes with a grave concern. That concern revolves around how we obtain these stem cells.

How Are Stem Cells Obtained?

In order to understand the basis of the debate over stem cell research, one must understand that there are two basic types of stem cells: embryonic stem cells (ESC) and adult stem cells (ASC).

Embryonic stem cells are, as you would expect from their name, derived from embryos. Four to five days after fertilization, the embryo consists of a hollow ball of cells called a blastocyst. It is from this ball of cells that all the body’s tissues are ultimately derived. To harvest embryonic stem cells, the embryo is disrupted (killed) and the cells collected. As this cell harvest occurs very early in development, very little differentiation of the stem cells would have taken place. These cells would be considered pluripotent.

Adult stem cells, on the other hand, are not necessarily derived from “adults.” This is somewhat confusing to many as adult stem cells can be obtained from any fully formed person, whether newborn, infant, child, or adult. These cells can be found in many tissues in the body: bone marrow, skin, teeth, liver, brain, intestines, blood vessels, skeletal muscle, among others.

The concern regarding adult stem cells is that these cells could have limitations on the types of tissues that could be obtained from them. In theory, these stem cells are further down the path of differentiation (they would be multipotent rather than pluripotent), thus limiting their potential usefulness in medical research and intervention.

How Are Stem Cells Used?

After being isolated, stem cells are then grown in laboratory culture. They are placed in dishes containing a special culture medium. The cells divide and multiply. The initial phase of the process would be designed to grow an adequate supply of the stem cells themselves.

So how are different tissue types generated from stem cells? There are many different methods used to cause a stem cell to differentiate into a specific cell type. Manipulation of the culture medium can guide this process. Other research techniques include hormonal stimulation or genetic modification of the stem cells. This is still an area of intensive investigation, with new techniques becoming available seemingly every few months.

As an example, let’s select a patient who has suffered a heart attack. A portion of the heart muscle has been damaged or killed as a result of this event. It would certainly be to the patient’s benefit to be able to repair the heart muscle. In this situation, the patient’s medical team might choose to intervene with stem cell therapy. Stem cells could be induced to differentiate into heart muscle cells. These cells could then be administered to the patient in hopes of improving the function of the damaged heart. This type of intervention is, in fact, taking place at this time.2 The results have been very promising thus far.

Depending on the particular situation, the stem cells might be given intravenously,3 by injection or direct deposit of the cells into the target site, given by intracoronary injection (for cardiac intervention), or injection into the spinal fluid (for neurologic problems). The hope for the future is that by using stem cells, entire organs might be grown for transplant. Again, research in this area is promising.

Are There Problems with Stem Cell Treatments?

As with any new research endeavor, there are pitfalls associated with stem cell research. While we tout the successes, we should also be aware of the problems and limitations.

Several major issues have limited embryonic stem cell therapy. First of all, in laboratory animals, embryonic stems cell have shown a tendency to form tumors. The reasons for this are unclear, although some have speculated that ESC can form tumors due to their tendency to associate with each other rather than with the target tissue.4 Obviously, this is an area of intense investigation at present.

The other major issue is that of tissue rejection. As with any transplant, foreign tissue is recognized by the body as “non self.” So an embryonic stem cell transplant from a random donor would be no different than a heart or a kidney transplant. After all, these embryonic stem cells would come from another person. These cells would be seen as foreign tissue by the body. Thus, anti-rejection drugs would be needed to prevent rejection of the new tissue. However, it should be noted that therapeutic cloning using a person’s own cells would avoid this problem.

Adult stem cells apparently do not have the problem of tumor formation. Therapy with ASC would also not have the problem of tissue rejection as long as the stem cells are harvested from the patients themselves.5

That is not to say that intervention with adult stem cells is without problems. The main problem is that even though ASC can be found in many body tissues, they occur in very small numbers and can be quite difficult to isolate. Thus, obtaining an adequate supply of ASC for a given therapeutic intervention can be difficult. The most often claimed problem with adult stem cells is the supposed limitation on the number of tissue types that can be derived from them. Since embryonic stem cells have undergone less initial differentiation, there is the potential to derive all needed cell types from ESC. Thus, it would stand to reason that ASC are more limited.

However, actual research does not bear out these claims. Adult stem cells have, to date, been used to generate almost every different cell type in the body.6 It has been shown that adult stem cells of one cell lineage can be induced to produce cells in another. For example, blood-forming stem cells in bone marrow can differentiate into cardiac muscle cells, etc.7 Some multipotent adult stem cells have been induced to revert to an apparent pluripotent state, and have subsequently produced many more cell types than would have been predicted. So while this may have seemed a problem in theory, it has not been a problem in practice.

Should Both ESC and ASC Research and Treatments Be Pursued?

So should we not pursue any avenue we can to help the sick and the dying? Do we not want stem cell therapy to succeed? Certainly we want to help the sick. We want medical science to progress. But we must also examine the facts and ask the question, “At what cost?”

First of all, what can be said for adult stem cell research? Simply this: adult stem cell therapy has been used to treat over 70 diseases to date. Some stem cell therapies have been used for over 40 years.8 ASC have a proven track record with the hope of greater successes to come. Thus far the only significant clinical interventions available are from using adult stem cells. For some reason the media, when reporting on these issues, has consistently downplayed these successes and even implied that these successes are the result of embryonic stem cell research rather than adult stem cell research.

Embryonic stem cells, on the other hand, despite the regularly reported theoretical benefits, have yet to achieve any significant clinical success. Those in favor of ESC argue that given time these advances will come. Perhaps this is so, but again we need to ask, “At what cost?”

What Is the Cost of Embryonic Stem Cell Research?

Although one could point to the lack of success of embryonic stem cell research, in spite of the years and countless dollars invested in it, and say, “It hasn’t been worth the cost,” the biggest cost is yet to be counted. The cost is that of human life.

As has been noted, embryonic stem cells are obtained by the destruction of an embryo. An embryo is fully human. So in order to get these stem cells to help one person, another person must be killed. This is simply morally unacceptable.

Scripture tells us that life begins at conception (here defined as the moment of fertilization). In His Word, God tells us:

Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying: “ Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:4–5).

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me (Psalm 51:5).

For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth (Psalm 139:13–15).

We are told that the Lord knew us before we were conceived. We have a sin nature in the womb. How could this be if we are not fully human at the time of fertilization?

What’s the Ethical Solution?

As has been shown, stem cell therapy has the potential to alleviate much suffering. It is an avenue of medical research that should be pursued in hopes of building on the successes already achieved. However, in our haste to help the sick, we must not neglect those who cannot speak for themselves. Adult stem cell therapy can allow us to fight disease without the destruction of human life.

Although everyone wants to see such devastating diseases come to an end, we all must realize our work will only lead to a temporary alleviation. Jesus Christ, the true conqueror of disease and death, will create a new heaven and a new earth where the effects of sin have been removed. That is the cure we eagerly await.

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The behavior of liquid droplets provides evolutionists with a bubbly solution to abiogenesis, but is the process any more than a wash for evolution?

Life? How did something so complex begin? Biological observations all show that life only comes from life. (This is called biogenesis.) Nevertheless, evolutionists confidently tell us that life evolved from nonliving chemicals through random natural processes.

Believing life began through abiogenesis despite the lack of observable scientific support, evolutionary scientists naturally search for ways to show how this could have happened. One of their latest notions suggests that the barrier between living cells and their surroundings got its start in self-replicating liquid droplets.

Tiny Bubbles

Liquid droplets are little bubbles of liquid floating in other liquids, sort of like oil and vinegar dressing when shaken. The liquid droplets of interest to biophysicists, however, are stable. Surface tension holds them in a spherical shape, and they coexist with their surroundings without being shaken or stirred. But in a supersaturated solution as molecules diffuse into them, these otherwise stable droplets can swell and split, very simplistically mimicking cellular division.

Because these bubbles can enclose certain molecules, concentrating and separating them from those in the surrounding liquid, they can segregate some chemical reactions from others. Spontaneous chemical reactions, possibly facilitated by the concentration of the necessary reactants, could therefore take place inside them. Outside the droplets, different chemical reactions might take place, particularly if light or some other energy source were available.

Biophysicists from Germany’s Max Planck Institute, observing the fascinating properties of liquid droplets, propose that liquid droplet physics could explain how life began. They believe that life’s essential chemicals, including genetic material, might have formed in prebiotic protocells. They call liquid droplets protocells to emphasize their evolutionary significance. Led by Frank Jülicher, the team has developed a model that they think explains how self-organizing liquid droplets, growing and reproducing before cells evolved, laid the groundwork for life’s evolutionary beginning.

Cells and Chemicals

All living things are made of cells. Cells are the building blocks of life. When evolutionists try to explain the origin of life, they must explain the origin of the living cell. Cells are not just baggies full of chemicals. They are incredibly complex, carefully compartmentalized structures in which chemical reactions are controlled and coordinated with each other.

Many chemical reactions take place inside a cell, where a complex, enzyme-rich, membrane-rich, highly organized architecture controls exactly what chemical reactions take place.

Cells have membranes that not only separate their insides from their outsides but also regulate what molecules can move through them. Many chemical reactions take place inside a cell, where a complex, enzyme-rich, membrane-rich, highly organized architecture controls exactly what chemical reactions take place.

Essential to all life is the ability of cells to grow and divide. Cells are self-replicating. They can reproduce themselves because they contain the genetic blueprint encoding instructions for their construction, organization, and operation. In multicellular organisms (like us), cells also contain the genetic information that determines how the cells differentiate and work together to make our bodies.

Everything scientists learn about cells offers another barrier to evolutionary claims that life could have evolved from chemicals. We have previously discussed the flaws in many of these claims—trickle-down chemistry, water world, RNA world, pre-RNA world, TNA world, XNA world, Darwin’s warm little pond, lipid world, nucleopeptide world, sugar world, clay theory, spinning living crystals, directed panspermia, and extraterrestrial infall.

That Which Is Seen

Jülicher’s model, though yet to be tested, is based on scientific observations. The behavior of stable liquid droplets and the molecules that make them up are observable. The chemical reactions that could take place inside them are observable. Some chemical reactions occur spontaneously, and some require an energy source. That is observable too. And because many chemical reactions interfere with other chemical reactions, chemists know that it is often necessary to separate them from each other. That the inside and the outside of these liquid droplets can sometimes separate such chemical reactions is also observable.

Depending on the concentrations of the various molecules in liquid droplets and the surrounding liquid, some molecules will spontaneously move across the boundary between the liquids. If lots of molecules diffuse into a droplet, it sometimes grows so big it splits into smaller daughter droplets. Such chemical behavior is also observable.

Cells contain many membrane-bound organelles, and cells are themselves wrapped in a cell membrane. So are actual liquid droplets a stable part of the cellular landscape? It turns out that they are! Cells contain within their cytoplasm many membrane-less “compartments” consisting of liquid collections of RNA molecules and RNA-binding proteins.1 This too is an observable fact.

Furthermore, RNA molecules can do some remarkable things. Consisting of chains of nucleotide “letters” similar to those in DNA, RNA plays a vital role in “decoding” the instructions contained in a cell’s genes. RNA copies genes and processes the information in them to manufacture proteins. RNA is also involved in the regulation of genetic expression. And some kinds of RNA molecules—ribozymes—act as catalysts for many important chemical reactions. These characteristics of RNA are likewise observable.

A Bubbly Beginning For Life

What sort of biologically relevant chemicals could be bottled up inside liquid droplets? If droplet division is to be relevant to the origin of life, these chemicals would have to be worth passing on. Naturally, the genetic material that passes on the information life needs to copy itself would be important in such a story! Therefore, biophysicists studying droplets and their evolutionary significance suggest that chemical reactions involving RNA could have taken place in primordial liquid droplets.

Ribozymes, a particular sort of RNA, catalyze some important chemical reactions. These include the assembly of amino acids to form the peptide chains of proteins and the linking of RNA nucleotides together to form more RNA or to splice bits of RNA together. Thus, some RNA can assemble itself.

The discovery of ribozymes has long fueled the RNA-world theory of abiogenesis. This is the idea that RNA was life’s original genetic material, able to assemble and replicate itself. Jülicher’s liquid droplets might, he proposes, have given this a non-living place to happen.

Perhaps self-assembling RNA, along with simple peptides, formed liquid droplets on the early earth, Jülicher suggests. If only a good chemical candidate for RNA copying could be identified, he speculates that, under the right conditions, random variations in the copying process along with spontaneous division of such “protocells” into daughter cells could have been subject to natural selection.

Jülicher and the coauthors of the Nature Physics paper describing the liquid-droplet model of life’s origins indicate that such liquid droplets could go far in explaining the cryptic origin of membranes. They believe this because a droplet’s surface naturally attracts certain kinds of molecules, including the sorts found in cell membranes.2 Could this process, purely a product of the chemical and physical properties of various molecules, have been the pre-biotic way life got started? Could non-living protocells like these have eventually evolved into primordial cells with all the necessary characteristics of life?

Jülicher’s team believe they have found the key to life.

Jülicher’s team believe they have found the key to life. The process they describe, if the right chemical components could be found, would segregate chemical reactions—including those that might randomly assemble RNA—in liquid bubbles that would not only spontaneously divide but also attract molecules of membranous relevance. So what’s the problem?

Bursting The Abiogenesis Bubble

Well, first of all, this is a model dependent on the existence of all the necessary components under the right conditions. And those conditions would have to have actually existed. Yet not only is the model hypothetical, but also the conditions on the early earth imagined by evolutionists are not know-able by the scientific method. No actual observational science can tell scientists what conditions existed when the earth was young. Why? Because no scientist was there to observe them. We can only know about the young earth because God, the earth’s Creator, has told us in His Word when He made the earth and all that in it and even what He made on each of the six days of creation. He was an eyewitness to the whole process.

What about membrane formation? The biophysicists suggest that the surface tension barrier holding each droplet together would have served as a membrane stand-in before membranes evolved. Has Jülicher’s team of biophysicists found a way protocells could have formed and re-formed until genuine membranes assembled themselves like oily bubbles in a sudsy pond of life?

The authors admit,

The steps from chemically active droplets to the first dividing cells with membranes pose a big challenge to the understanding of early evolution. While it has been suggested that ribozymes that replicate RNA could have formed by molecular evolution, it is unclear how a cell membrane and cell division could have emerged.3

Despite this admission, the authors believe the predecessors of living cells could have been liquid droplets. And because molecules like the lipids that comprise a significant portion of actual membranes can glom onto the surfaces of liquid droplets, they believe the droplets could have eventually attracted the necessary molecules to form membranes. They write, “If lipids were available in the outside fluid, lipid monolayers or bilayers could be attracted to the specific droplet surface chemistry. Our work shows that active droplets can naturally divide. Therefore, protocells could have obtained their membranes long after the first dividing cells had appeared on Earth.”4

Cells cannot exist without membranes. Many compartments inside actual cells are like liquid droplets, separated from cellular cytoplasm only by the properties of their component molecules. However, all cells have membranes. And even though the liquid droplets in Jülicher’s model can coalesce, stabilize themselves, grow, attract lipids to their surface, and divide into new daughter droplets without membranes, living cells require membranes. Real membranes. And cellular membranes are extremely complex structures, not just double-layered lipid barriers.

Real membranes contain embedded proteins and attachments for the internal skeleton of a cell. They actively control the movements of molecules into and out of a cell. They contain markers that signal other cells and, in many cases, adhere to other cells. Real cell membranes are the products of the genetic information contained in the parent cell, the necessary biomolecules manufactured in accordance with that information, and the complex cellular machinery that implements those instructions during cell division. Without such instructions and a way to follow them, a dividing “protocell” is only a bursting bubble, more reminiscent of the bursting bubbles of evolutionary claims than the origin of the living cell.

“Protocell” division—a product of the concentrations of chemicals in a liquid-droplet soup—is not a model for cell division—a genuine and genuinely complex process—or for the mythical evolution of life by natural selection. Nothing about popping “protocells” could provide actual information to pass on to generations of daughter cells, much less any information to eventually become alive.

Lack of Life’s Information

But the problem of abiogenesis goes past the issue of gathering the right substances under the right conditions through random processes. It even goes beyond the problem of spontaneous membrane assembly, if all the right biomolecules just happened to be around. Could life arise from nonliving material through random natural processes? Based on observational science, the answer must be “no.”

Perhaps the greatest scientific problem with the notion of abiogenesis is the lack of information.

Perhaps the greatest scientific problem with the notion of abiogenesis is the lack of information. The countless chemical processes that take place in a coordinated fashion in living cells occur because cells contain the genetic information to make them happen. Everything that a cell does, whether it is a single-celled organism or a component of a multicellular one, is possible because of the genetic information passed on in DNA from cell to cell.

What about that spontaneously assembled RNA the biophysicist authors suggest might have been sequestered in primordial protocells? No information is found there either. While some RNA molecules can self-assemble under the right conditions, randomly assembled RNA could not encode any information, whether bound in a membrane precursor or not. Why? Because random sequences of RNA nucleotides spell nothing. They are only nonsense. Random letters—particularly letters from a genetic language that did not yet exist in the evolutionary timeline—could not spell out complex information and instructions. Information, based on scientific observations, only comes from a source of information. It does not create itself through random processes.

The True Origin of Life

Despite the fond hopes of the evolutionary biophysicists who trumpet this latest tale in the abiogenesis story, the liquid-droplet origin of life just does not hold water. If we want to know how biological life began, we must look to the only living source of information around at the time of life’s origins. And that was the Creator God, who alone could create life from lifelessness. God alone could infuse all the living things He created with the information to follow His command—echoed repeatedly in the Genesis account of the six days of creation—to reproduce after their kinds.

God’s account of creation is not only preserved in the Bible’s book of Genesis but is also echoed in the God-inscribed commandments given at Mount Sinai: “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them” (Exodus 20:11). It is echoed again in the New Testament: “In the beginning was the Word, and Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:1–3). Those who reject God’s account of creation will remain ignorant of the origin of life, failing to acknowledge that life can only come from the one true giver of life, the Creator God.

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