April 23, 2010
The Vatican is putting its money where its belief is, and will be putting an initial 2 million ($2.7 million) to support an International Intestinal Stem Cell Consortium. The group includes the University of Maryland, Istituto Superiore di Sanita (Italys version of the National Institutes of Health), University of Salerno and Bambino Gesu, the Vaticans childrens hospital. Dr. Alessio Fasano, a University of Maryland professor of pediatrics, medicine and physiology, who is from Italy, is coordinating the consortium.
According to Fasano:
"We are trying to explore stem cell research aside from embryonic stem cells. Is there a better way?"
Fasano believes that using adult stem cells, from the intestines of the patients themselves, could be that "better way." He notes that intestinal adult stem cells are easily harvested from the patient's own supply with a simple procedure and so are readily available, and have an additional advantage in that they will not be rejected by the body because they are the patient's own adult stem cells.
Father Bob Gahl of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross noted:
"Nobody should be killed in the process of doing medical research. So this new project falls exactly within the Catholic Church's ethical guidelines."
Meanwhile, embryonic stem cell scientists repeated the long-disproven old dogma that adult stem cells could only become the type of tissue in which they are found and could not treat problems with other different tissues, while grudgingly acknowledging that adult stem cells have actually already shown their utility for disease treatments. George Daley of Boston Children's Hospital said
"I applaud the Vatican for being interested in supporting biomedical research, but I can't help but think there's an agenda."
There most certainly is an agenda--putting the patients first. The Vatican is supporting the only type of stem cell research with a proven track record for real treatments -- adult stem cells.