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