Vatican newspaper calls new stem cell source 'future of medicine'


The Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano republished an interview on Wednesday detailing current research on a new source of stem cells that is being called "the future of medicine."

According to the Vatican newspaper, the pioneering research is presently taking place at the Biocell Center of Busto Arsizio in Milan and involves using stem cells taken from amniotic fluid to create a retinal regeneration therapy. This stem cell source is considered morally licit as it does not require the destruction of human embryos.

In an interview with Giuseppe Simoni, an Italian biologist and geneticist from Milan, L'Osservatore Romano's Joseph Reguzzoni shed light on amniotic stem cells, which are now at the forefront of genetic research. The interview was originally published in September-December 2009 edition of the magazine "Communio."

"We are studying a particular type of stem cell, the amniotic stem cell, that represents a 'first' in the course of our existence," Simoni said of Biocell. "We are investing all of our work in the conviction that the study of amniotic cells could bring us to better understand many phenomena, and in consequence improve the lives of the sick, cure pathologies (which are) to-date incurable, and make more effective the remedies already used. In the field of amniotic cells, additionally, we are really at the beginning: everything still needs to be studied, verified, demonstrated."

"The possibilities are really so many and the hopes infinite," Simoni said.

When asked to explain why stem cells have been so pursued by medical researchers, Simoni explained that "The stem cells and their behavior are important to understanding the dynamics of tumors, the regeneration of tissues, the continual cell proliferation that takes place each minute in the course our entire lives."

Simoni also outlined the differences between embryonic stem cells and ones obtained from amniotic fluid. "Unlike embryonic stem cells," he noted, "in a not so distant future, everyone could possess their own amniotic cells, or have in close relatives an availability of compatible amniotic cells."

"For the embryonic cells, on the other hand, the conversation is more complicated, you need to find the embryo, develop compatible lines..." which, according to Simoni, not only have large costs associated with them but also have the power to generate large profits.

"All this," he stated, "is inconsistent with our mission and irreconcilable with our code of ethics."

"We believe, actually, that ethics are necessary in everything," he continued. "You can't work well if you don't have respect for the person, also for a person yet to be born. How can something good come out of an injustice or an inethical behavior?" Simoni asked.

"In this sense the study of the amniotic fluid and the stem cells they contain are not inconsistent with ethical principles."

L'Osservatore Romano reported that in addition to the Biocell Center of Busto Arsizio, numerous other institutions have agreed to take part in the research on amniotic stem cells and retina regeneration. The list includes Harvard Medical School's Department of Opthalmology, the IRCCS Foundation and three Italian hospitals.

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