Category: Stem Cells

Thus Have We Made the World…

Over at his Forbes blog, John Farrell is discussing stem cells. A commenter on his post writes:

“Why is it that, “the Vatican cannot sanction embryonic stem cell research, as it involves the destruction of embryos donated from IVF clinics” … but they say nothing about the fact than those same embryos that go unused are destroyed? It appears that they’d rather have the stem cells destroyed, and help no one, than to see them destroyed by helping cure people of terrible diseases and injury. What hypocrisy.”

Those unfamiliar with the Church’s teaching may not realize that the Church’s ethical treatment of frozen embryos fundamentally involves handling them exactly as we would handle any other human being. That is, all of us will eventually be destroyed, and yet that does not make it legitimate to use any of us for deliberately destructive medical experimentation. And if natural death seems to be an imperfect analogy, we could just use a situation like the concentration camps of totalitarian regimes. That the inmates of such camps are destined to be destroyed does not make it legitimate to use them for research in the meantime. The sanest moral response is to object to the fact that they are imprisoned in the first place.

So too with frozen embryos. The quandry is that there is no good solution to the problem of what to do with them once they are created: to actively destroy them is to deliberately destroy human lives; nevertheless, to let them linger on is  a dismal prospect. Yet in a bad situation, and knowing full well that the alternative is hardly pleasant, the Church advises that we at the very least refrain from the active commission of an evil act, the destruction of life, even if it is ostensibly justified by the potential for new medical knowledge.

That it is the Church that gets criticized for supposed inattentiveness to human suffering, rather than those who willingly create lives to put them into this nightmare situation, is a sign of just how deranged modern moral analysis has become.

Upcoming Vatican Stem Cell Conference

Dome of St. Peter's Basilica (Public domain)


The Vatican Information Service reports:

“Vatican City, 5 April 2013 (VIS) – This morning in the Holy See Press Office, a press conference was held to present the Second International Vatican Adult Stem Cell Conference, “Regenerative Medicine: A Fundamental Shift in Science & Culture”, which will place in the new Synod Hall of the Paul VI building in the Vatican from 11–13 April. Participating in the press conference were: Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture; Dr. Robin Smith, president of The Stem for Life Foundation and CEO of NeoStem; and Msgr. Tomasz Trafny, head of the Pontifical Council for Culture’s Science and Faith foundation.


[Msgr. Trafny explained,] “We want “to have a cultural influence on society, pointing to research models of excellence that are, nevertheless, in tune with the highest moral values of protecting the life and dignity of the human being from the moment of conception. However, we are aware that you cannot permanently influence society and culture without the constant and far-sighted support that comes from religious, social, and political leaders, from the community of entrepreneurs and from benefactors who are ready to commit to developing long-term scientific, bioethical, and cultural research.”

Read the story here.

More information is also available from Zenit.

Vatican Stem Cell Conference Announced

The Pontifical Council for Culture, together with NeoStem, the Stem for Life Foundation, and STOQ International have announced next year’s Vatican-hosted conference on adult stem cell research. From the press release:

NEW YORK, Nov. 1, 2012 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The Stem for Life Foundation, NeoStem, Inc. (NYSE MKT:NBS), The Pontifical Council for Culture, and STOQ International today announced that they will host The Second International Vatican Adult Stem Cell Conference: Regenerative Medicine — A Fundamental Shift in Science & Culture, from within The Vatican, April 11-13, 2013.

This event is part of a five-year collaboration between The Stem for Life Foundation, a not-for-profit organization devoted to raising global awareness of the therapeutic potential of adult stem cells, NeoStem, an emerging leader in the fast growing cell therapy industry, The Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture and its foundation, called STOQ International (Science, Theology and the Ontological Quest).

With renowned journalists serving as moderators — Meredith Vieira from NBC News, Bill Hemmer from The Fox News Channel, Peggy Noonan of The Wall Street Journal and Dr. Max Gomez from WCBS-TV — The Second International Vatican Adult Stem Cell Conference will feature leading adult stem cell scientists and clinicians, thought leaders of faith, ethics and culture, business leaders as well as Ministers of Health, Ambassadors to The Holy See and regulatory officials from around the world. During the event, adult stem cell scientists and clinicians will present an array of medical advancements and ongoing research occurring throughout the world, including the ability to grow replacements for damaged and diseased organs; restoring heart function after a heart attack; growing new skin for burn victims; rebalancing our own immune systems, pushing back a rising tide of chronic disease; advancements in cancer therapy; preventing organ rejection and addressing a range of other conditions and trauma, such as MS, traumatic brain injuries and cardiovascular disease via adult stem cell therapies. Throughout the event, patients will share their own stories of the unique, powerful treatments that have helped address their disease and reduce suffering.

Read here.

The website for the conference is online here.

Stem Cell Debates

What Can We Learn from the Stem Cell Debates?” asks Brendan Foht at Public Discourse, writing about a new report from The Witherspoon Council which argues that “that even the noblest aspirations of the scientific enterprise must be guided by ethics and governed under political authority.”

TCT on Ethical Stem Cell Research

The Path to Ethical Stem Cell Research“, an essay by Chuck Donovan and Nora Sullivan of the Charlotte Lozier Institute, is up today at The Catholic Thing.

Stem Cells Regenerate Heart Tissue in Lab Tests

A report from the American Heart Association says that researchers were able to use adult stem cells obtained from elderly heart failure patients to rejuvenate heart tissues. A team led by Dr. Sadia Mohsin of the San Diego Heart Research Institute was able to retrieve cardiac stem cells from elderly heart failure patients, and then incubate the cells with a viral vector that expressed the enzyme Pim-1, which is known to stimulate cell metabolism and the growth and regeneration of cells. The incubated cardiac stem cells were then injected into the myocardial tissue of mice modified to model a damaged heart. They found that the stem cells treated with Pim-1 generated new tissue and enhanced the cardiac function in the mice, while mice that received untreated cells showed much less improvement. While the research has so far been conducted only in mice, and similar studies have been done in pigs, the team is optimistic that the technique could prove beneficial to humans and hopes to begin a clinical trial. Dr. Mohsin says, “We modified these biopsied stem cells and made them healthier. It is like turning back the clock so these cells can thrive again.”

The study is published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

(American Heart Association)

Image: Green represents myocytes newly formed by the transplanted cardiac stem cells. Red represents myocytes, blue shows the nuclei of the cells. Red and green colors together means that the transplanted cardiac stem cells have formed new myocytes. Elsevier/American Heart Association/JACC.

Vatican Stem Cell Collaboration Produces Book

Vatican Radio reports:

As part of an ongoing mission to advance scientific research on adult stem cell therapies and explore their cultural and ethical implications, Monsignor Tomasz Trafny of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture, joined Dr. Robin Smith, CEO of NeoStem (NYSE MKT:NBS) & Chairman and President of the Stem for Life Foundation, and Dr. Max Gomez, trustee of the Stem for Life Foundation to present the first copy of their forthcoming book, Our Stem Cells: The Mystery of Life and Secrets of Healing, to Pope Benedict XVI following the Wednesday general audience.

The book is the result of a unique collaboration between the Vatican’s Pontifical Council (via its charitable foundation STOQ International) and the Stem for Life Foundation, and will be available later this year. It includes a special address by Pope Benedict, urging increased support and awareness for advancements in adult stem cell research in order to alleviate human suffering.

Read here.

NeoStem Director on Vatican Collaboration

Some of you may have heard me on the SonRise Morning Show earlier today talking about the new science and faith foundation just established at the Vatican, and its mission to lead up ventures like the Vatican’s partnership with the adult stem cell research company NeoStem. Coincidentally, I’ve just found this informative post at Forbes from NeoStem director Steven Myers:

When you begin to understand the promise of stem cell treatments when it comes to treating these diseases, along with maladies such as cancer in all its terrible varieties and autoimmune illnesses such as multiple sclerosis and lupus, and further recognize the trillions of dollars that can be saved in our health care system by pursuing stem cell research and development, this public misunderstanding becomes all the more tragic.

But this may all be about to change.

That change is coming, in no small measure, as a direct result of a remarkable event that occurred at the Vatican in early November of this year where a conference, co- hosted by the Catholic Church and NeoStem (a publically held company on whose board of directors I am proud to serve) was convened and included prominent scientists, ethicists, business and religious leaders from around the world who gathered for the first ever international conference on “adult” stem cell research.

It was clear from the outset that this event would mark a turning point in the ethical considerations of stem cell development when Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture opened the conference with a declaration that the Catholic Church enthusiastically supports scientific research on adult stem cells along with the exploration of the cultural, ethical, and human implications of their use.

Read here.

Vatican Radio: Stem Cell Conference

Vatican Radio reports on this upcoming Vatican hosted conference on stem cells.

Listen here.

Upcoming Vatican Stem Cell Conference

National Catholic Register reports:

A Vatican conference next month could help influence public figures to get behind adult stem-cell research, much in the way Michael J. Fox is lobbying for embryonic stem-cell research.

That’s the hope of Dr. Robin Smith, CEO of NeoStem, an international biopharmaceutical firm based in New York.

The Nov. 9-11 conference, “Adult Stem Cells: Science and the Future of Man and Culture,” will bring Church leaders, policymakers, government health ministers and ambassadors to the Holy See together with scientists, stem-cell companies and patients who have participated in adult stem-cell trials.

Read here.