Updated 05/26/2010 12:10 PM
Vatican Enters Partnership To Advance Adult Stem Cell Research
The Vatican is entering into an agreement working toward the advancement of adult stem cell research. NY1 Health & Fitness reporter Kafi Drexel filed the following report on the unique partnership.
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In a first-of-its-kind move, the Catholic Church is partnering with biopharmaceutical company NeoStem to promote adult stem cell research. Not only is it a first in the world of stem cell technology, but it’s the first time the Vatican is entering an agreement a publicly-traded company in advancing scientific research.
“We need to know how to translate these discoveries into language, regular language of simple people and how many, how deep consequences this kind of research will have on society while it involves the Christian teaching,” explains Reverend Tomasz Trafny, the director of science and faith at the Pontifical Council for Culture.
In those terms, the move is a significant one because of controversy around the two forms of stem cell research, adult and embryonic, scientists pursue in efforts to develop treatments for a wide variety of diseases. The Catholic Church has long opposed embryonic research because they equate it with the destruction of human life.
The Vatican is contributing $1 million to back an initiative that will sponsor adult stem cell research and education programs around the world. The chairman and chief executive officer of NeoStem says this is a way for them to move ahead, without violating the beliefs of those who oppose embryonic research.
“We're very focused on a population of stem cells called VSELs, very small embryonic-like stem cells that are in each of us that are remnants from when we were actually an embryo,” says NeoStem CEO Dr. Robin Smith. “So we are actually very excited about the potential of those cells to become all different cell types of all different organs, the different germ layers for when we evolved, and those cells are what we are looking at for regenerative properties.”
Some researchers are applauding the Vatican's move, saying "the more research the better,” but hope it's not to the detriment of advances on the embryonic front. Dr. Robert Klitzman is director of the masters of bioethics program at Columbia and a member of the NYS Stem Cell Commission.
“Since neither has yet really produced treatment in an effective way, it's good to have both going,” says Dr. Robert Klitzman, director of the Masters of Bioethics Program at Columbia University and a member of the New York State Stem Cell Commission. “I hope people won't say ‘Oh we now have this adult stem cell research, we don't need to do the other.’ That would be a mistake.”
The Vatican and NeoStem are looking for other collaborators from all over the world to work on their initiative. Plans are also underway for a major adult stem cell research conference to be held in Rome in the fall of 2011.