Church and Science

Archdiocese of Sydney awards grant for adult stem cell research


Cardinal George Pell has announced that Archdiocese of Sydney is awarding a $100,000 stem cell research grant to a team of researchers investigating the potential of adult stem cells.

The researchers, based in Adelaide, will use the grant to investigate the capacity of stem cells derived from human dental pulp to transform into neuron cells.  If the cells can be effectively transformed, they could be useful in treatments for victims of strokes.

The research team is led by Associate Professor Stan Gronthos of the Hanson Institute and Dr. Simon Koblar of the Australian Research Council Center for the Molecular Genetics of Development at the University of Adelaide.  Both researchers praised the contribution of their Ph.D. student Dr. Agnieszka Arthur for being instrumental in advancing their studies.  Dr. Arthur is a co-investigator of the grant and is doing postdoctoral work at the Hanson Institute.

“The project of Associate Professor Gronthos and Dr. Koblar brings new ideas and new thinking to adult stem cell research, and to the search for new treatments for people who have had a stroke,” Cardinal Pell said.

“Their research will initiate and foster a new collaboration between researchers in this area, and I am particularly pleased that the grant from the Archdiocese of Sydney will make a significant contribution to ensuring that their research project goes ahead,” the cardinal continued.

“This is exactly the sort of ethical, innovative and life-enhancing research that the grant was established to promote, and I am delighted that Associate Professor Gronthos and Dr Koblar will join the other distinguished winners of our previous grants in furthering this work.”

Ten applications were received for this year’s grant.  They were evaluated by an independent selection panel composed of professors with expertise either in law, medical research or medical ethics.  Two referees also assisted the panel in evaluating applicants.

Dr Bernadette Tobin, Director of the Plunkett Centre for Ethics at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney, headed the panel.  She said all submissions had very high standards of scientific excellence.  She explained the selection panel’s decision:

“One of the referees judged that Associate Professor Gronthos and Dr Koblar’s innovative research would be highly likely to produce important new knowledge. And with new knowledge comes the hope of new treatments and therapies,” she said.

“In addition to this, Associate Professor Gronthos and Dr Koblar lead an established research team with a very good publication record in the area of adult stem cell research,” Dr. Tobin continued.

The Archdiocese of Sydney’s grant has funded three different kinds of stem cell research.  A 2003 grant funded an investigation into the therapeutic potential of adult stem cells derived from the nose to be used in the treatment of Parkinson’s Disease.  The 2005 grant investigated therapies using skin-derived stem cells to regenerate skin for catastrophic burn victims.

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