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Vatican stem cell event aims for wide cultural impact
By David Uebbing
Msgr. Tomasz Trafny, Dr. Robin Smith, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi and Fr. Ciro Benedettini present the Second International Vatican Adult Stem Cell Conference April 9, 2013 at the Holy See press office
Msgr. Tomasz Trafny, Dr. Robin Smith, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi and Fr. Ciro Benedettini present the Second International Vatican Adult Stem Cell Conference April 9, 2013 at the Holy See press office

.- The Vatican's upcoming conference on adult stem cell research aims to influence culture by promoting dialogue between politicians, medical researchers, journalists and students on the latest developments.  

Monsignor Tomasz Trafny, head of the Pontifical Council for Culture's Science and Faith foundation, explained to journalists April 9 that the event hopes to impact society by “pointing to research models of excellence that are...in tune with the highest moral values of protecting the life and dignity of the human being from the moment of conception.”

During the first adult stem cell gathering in 2011, the organizers focused on making the complex world of medical research more understandable to the average person.

But for their second gathering, which will be held April 11-13 in the Vatican’s New Synod Hall, they want to extend their message by working at overcoming some of the “prejudice and antagonism” against adult stem research that can be found in the medical field.

“That is why we feel called to collaborate with the most prestigious professors, research institutes, and universities around the world,” Msgr. Trafny explained.

The keynote speaker for the conference will be Doctor John Gurdon, the 2013 Nobel Prize winner for Physiology or Medicine. This year, the conference will also have students from 25 universities around the world present.

Msgr. Trafny told CNA that during the afternoon sessions the organizers will “try to introduce issues related to cultural, philosophical, ethical, theological discussion.”  

“And we would like to offer the possibility to reflect, to discuss, not only scientific achievements but also cultural impact that this research can have in the future.”

Dr. Robin Smith, CEO of NeoStem and the president of the Stem for Life Foundation, took time to address the political and financial aspects of the stem cell debate as well.  

“I think that it speaks for itself, in the fact there are 4,300 clinical trials using adult stem cells and only 26 using embryonic stem cells,” Smith said in response to a question from CNA.

“So as we continue to see more data,” she added, “there will be more support to have these therapies developed into the clinic.”  

In her estimation, “it’s all about the data and the progress.”

The more people understand the scientific advances, the more “we’ll see that people are starting to learn that the future of stem cell therapy is adult stem cells,” Smith predicted.

And when the momentum builds behind adult stem cell cures, Smith said, “that will impact funding, (and) it will have an impact on government and regulatory bodies.”

“We’re already seeing from ambassadors and ministers of health, they want to embrace this.”
 

Tags: Vatican, Adult stem cells, Pontifical Council for Culture


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