.- Following Friday's news that a U.S. company has been given the go ahead to experiment with embryonic stem cells on human patients, a former head of the Pontifical Academy for Life told Vatican Radio that the trials are unacceptable. He said that regardless of whether the result of testing is positive or negative, "morally it remains a crime."
Biopharmaceutical developer Geron, which has its headquarters in California, announced last Friday that it was cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to begin testing injections of an embryonic stem cell derivative in treatments for severe spinal-cord injuries.
Geron celebrated the FDA's approval which, they said, gives them the ability to legally "move forward with the world's first clinical trial of a human embryonic stem cell (hESC)-based therapy in man."
The clearance had been blocked since last January after preliminary trials on animals resulted in the growth of small cysts in treated regions. Further testing led to the FDA's recent approval.
Bishop Elio Sgreccia, who led the Pontifical Academy for Life for more than three years, told Vatican Radio in an interview released on Saturday that the use of human embryos in treatments should be rejected, "not only from the Catholic moral code but by whoever respects the human individual."
Bishop Sgreccia noted that researchers carry out their experiments under the assertion that embryos remain only "a human being in the making." But considering that embryos are "sacrificed" for the treatments, he said, "from an ethical point of view (it) can only receive a negative judgment."
Looking at the results of embyronic stem cell testing, he said, it can be seen that, to date, the expected results have not been obtained. This, said Bishop Sgreccia, is due to the fact that embryonic stem cells are meant for the creation of a human being, not just other cells.
"In any case," he added, "in the remote possibility that there was a positive result, morally it remains a crime."