.- The president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, said this week that the work by two scientists has shown adult stem cells to be much more promising for medical treatment than embryonic stem cells. The use of adult stem cells poses no ethical difficulties and has already contributed to advancing treatments for degenerative diseases.
In an article published by L’Osservatore Romano, the archbishop cited the work of two scientists, James Thomson of the United States and Shinya Yamanaka of Japan. The Japanese scientist was able to create induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) from adult cells, first doing so with cells from mice and then later using human skin cells.
Archbishop Fisichella underscored that “the technique for producing iPS cells has allowed something to happen that was unthinkable in the field of cellular biology: to convert differentiated adult stem cells into immature, undifferentiated cells of an embryonic type.” Currently, he underscored, “nearly 300 labs throughout the world are studying these cells and what is significant is that numerous research teams have moved from the study of embryonic cells to the study of iPS cells.”
Adult stem cells outweigh embryonic stem cells in three ways, the archbishop continued. “The first is in the area of ethics, as iPS cells are not obtained through the destruction of human embryos (as is the case with embryonic cells.)” “With the development of iPS cells, the ethical debate that has raged in public opinion, parliaments and the scientific community can now be considered closed,” he said.
The second aspect “has to do with therapeutic applications: iPS cells have the great advantage of having been obtained from cells taken directly from the patient. This means that when they are injected they are compatible with the patient’s own immune system, and thus they are perfectly accepted,” as has been shown in cases involving stem cells taken from the umbilical cord.
The third aspect is that “iPS cells allow for the creation of pathological models,” Archbishop Fisichella said. “Thanks to Yamanaka, we can speak about the immediate future of generations of cellular models of diseases, in vitro, as the first practical application of this technology.”
The archbishop pointed to recent studies which have shown that iPS cells have been made from the cells of patients who carry the mutated genes that cause sclerosis, Parkinson’s, diabetes and other diseases, resulting in significant advances especially “in pharmacology.”
Archbishop Fisichella also highlighted the international congress “Adult Stem Cells: New Perspectives,” which will be held November 26-28 in Monaco to promote respect for life and the new methods in the field of stem cell research and treatment.