The Vatican is bringing top scientists together for its second international adult stem cell conference. The organisers say they want to counter misconceptions and prove that the Church is not “anti-science”, but “anti-unethical science”.
Pro-Life campaigners are strongly opposed to the use of embryonic stem cells to fight disease, but advocate the use of stem cells from adult tissue.
The key speaker is last year’s Nobel Prize Winner for Physiology or Medicine, Dr John Gurdon, for his work in stem cells.
“I think the prospect of cell replacement has become very prominent and very exciting in recent times because of the possibility of making any kind of cells from an easy accessible cell like skin or blood – you can turn them to any kind of cell. The prospect of then transplanting them into patients,” he told euronews.
“I am learning a lot in this meeting about what can be done clinically which I am not really aware of. I am very keen to know to what extent these kind of treatments are proving successful.”
Professor Silviu Itsecu, the founder and CEO of Mesoblast, the world’s largest regenerative medicine company, said the existing standard of care had reached a certain level.
“I think we need new approaches to treat major diseases such as cardiovascular, inflammatory and orthopedic diseases,” he told euronews. “It is clear that if we want to achieve paradigm shifts in changing the natural course of these diseases it will be potentially with regenerative medicine approaches that not just improve symptoms but can regenerate, replace and rebuild tissues, organs and change the natural history of these diseases that we are trying to address.”
The Vatican stresses its belief that stem cell research does not have to involve the destruction of human embryos.
Under Pope Francis, a science graduate himself, it wants to build bridges with the scientific community. But differences in many fields remain – not least over issues such as reproductive technologies and contraception.