The world’s first synthetic living cell has brought a cautiously positive reaction from Catholic Church officials. But they have warned that the innovation will need to be used correctly.
The Vatican’s daily publication hailed the technological breakthrough but said it was not the same as life.
The Catholic Church’s research centre into life matters, the Pontifical Academy for Life, said that scientific progress had to go hand in hand with ethical responsibility.
The Vatican’s top bioethics official Rino Fisichella said the church must question the use of such cells if applied to human life.
“This discovery is a great discovery and there is no objection from the Catholic Church about that,” he said. “But at the moment it is still just a theoretical research and for this reason until we don’t know the use that will be done with this research there is not an ethical judgement about it.”
The discovery has launched a fierce ethical debate.
Academics have said it could be applied to areas such as agriculture, bio-fuels and medicine.
One expert cautioned that revolutionary change would not happen overnight:
“You must not expect that the day after one such an achievement we will have molecules on the market,” said Sergio Nasi, professor of molecular pathology at La Sapienza University of Rome. “This will come, but it will take time and more research.”
The discovery has brought an awareness that great achievements could lie ahead. But fears of the consequences of playing God have also led to calls for strict controls.