Vatican funds adult stem cell research at U Maryland

The Vatican has emphasised its support for adult stem cells by financing research at the University of Maryland. Experts at the university’s medicine school are exploring the potential use of adult intestinal stem cells in the treatment of intestinal conditions and possibly a range of other diseases. The group are seeking an initial 2 million euros to get the project moving.

The Catholic Church’s position on stem cell research remains in support of the protection of human life, with the view that embryonic stem cell research kills human life by destroying the embryo.

According to Fr Bob Gahl, professor of Moral Philosophy at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, the Catholic Church’s rules are ethically “very simple,” in that “all research be respectful of human life.”

“Nobody should be killed in the process of doing medical research. So this new project falls exactly within the Catholic Church’s ethical guidelines.”

The Vatican’s opposition to embryonic stem cell research has been criticised on many fronts. However, it has held its ground on the issue, maintaining that scientifically viable alternatives do exist and that science should research in that direction.

The use of adult stem cells could, where the cells are taken from a patient themselves, also solve the problem of patients’ bodies rejecting the cells.

Alessio Fasano, the scientist at the head of the project and the director of the University of Maryland’s Centre for Celiac Research, said that the group is seeking to harvest intestinal stem cells and isolate them, with the aim of transforming them into any other kind of cell. ~ New York Times Apr 23

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