Vatican to fund stem cell research
Rome/Maryland – The Vatican has taken a bold step into unchartered territory with its decision to finance new research into the potential use of adult stem cells for the treatment of intestinal disease and possibly other conditions. According to an announcement issued by the University of Maryland, the Catholic Church has agreed to donate US$2.7m to the International Intestinal Stem Cell Consortium, which brings together researchers from the Center for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine at the University of Maryland, the University of Salerno, the Bambino Gesù Childrens’ Hospital in Rome and the Istituto Superiore di Sanita – Italy’s leading public health institution. “This research protects life,” said Cardinal Renato Martino, a former head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, during a meeting with Italian and American scientists and health officials. The Vatican is strongly opposed to embryonic stem cell research, but encourages the search for alternatives. The investment received blessings from the very top of the Catholic hierarchy. In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI said that adult stem cell research is acceptable because it respects “the life of the human being at every stage of his or her existence.” The project is still at a preliminary phase, Vatican officials said.