“The more people understand the benefits of adult stem cells—the real research, the data, where this can go with regenerative medicine with immunological diseases,” she said, “the more interested people will be in using adult stem cells.”
Smith noted that over 70 diseases are currently being treated with adult stem cells, versus embryonic stem cells, which have no current therapies despite the continual media coverage they garner.
On Oct. 5, researchers made headlines after cloning human embryos with an extra set of chromosomes for potential stem cell harvesting. Catholic scientists and bio-ethicists decried the experiment, saying it did little to advance a medical breakthrough and violated human life.
“Controversy makes news, so there's a lot of noise about it,” Smith said, “but I think if you really look at the numbers of funded studies and the advancements, it's not in embryonic stem cells it's in adult stem cells.”
Fr. Trafny agreed, noting that “sensational topics receive more visibility from media” and suggesting that part of the problem may be “a question that we should address to journalists.”
To some extent, media hype “is good in that people discuss the issue,” he said. “It means that there is sensitivity among people and they are questioning if it is right or wrong.”
Ultimately, however, embryonic stem cell research “is unacceptable from a moral point of view and from the perspective of Catholic teaching,” Fr. Trafny underscored.
“This is why we are very much in support of adult stem cell research and of course we want to look at cultural implications and consequences this kind of research and advancement in life science will bring to society.”
Both Fr. Trafny and Smith said that next step for the venture is a major conference at the Vatican that will be held Nov. 9-11 and will touch on the topic of the cultural consequences of regenerative medicine.
“Hopefully this conference will be the beginning of much more education so people can get excited about the future of adult stem cells and realize that they can be supportive of their faith and science,” Fr. Trafny said.
Smith added that NeoStem has been “so lucky to have the support and collaboration of the Catholic Church and their following to help educate people.”
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“We can get behind improving human suffering and advance not only longevity of life but the health that people have—their ability to be viable in society, to recover from diseases,” she said, “which they have as their body's own natural repair mechanisms.”