Stem cells (kurtislizandchauncey/Flickr/CC BY 2.0)
Stem cells (kurtislizandchauncey/Flickr/CC BY 2.0)
Stem cells (kurtislizandchauncey/Flickr/CC BY 2.0)

Maggie Fox, NBC NEWS

(NBC News) — Activists who released a video they say shows a Planned Parenthood doctor discussing the sale of tissue from aborted fetuses have riled up abortion-rights opponents, with House Speaker John Boehner saying the case makes him want to “vomit” and Republican-controlled committees in Congress promising to investigate.

The political firestorm raises a question: Why would anyone use tissue from an aborted fetus?

It’s because some scientists hope they might provide cures for a range of diseases from Parkinson’s to crushed spinal cords.

A Source of Stem Cells

Cells from embryos and very early fetuses have properties that fully developed cells do not. What most researchers are after if they use fetal tissue are the stem cells.

The term “stem cell” is confusing because it encompasses many different types of cells. There are the embryonic stem cells, which come from days-old embryos and which have the power to morph into any type of cell in the body – blood, brain, bone or organ. They can be difficult to direct and there’s a whole industry devoted to orchestrating the growth and development of these cells into desired tissue types.



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