Catholic bishops, bio-ethicists welcome stem cell breakthrough

Catholic bishops, bio-ethicists welcome stem cell breakthrough

.- The Catholic Bishops Joint Bio-ethics Committee — the group of experts form the Catholic Church in Britain and Ireland charged with monitoring bio-ethical issues — has welcomed news of a recent breakthrough in the treatment of heart disease using adult stem cells.

Scientists, led by Sir Magdi Yacoub at Imperial College London, have grown part of a human heart from adult stem cells found in bone marrow. While the procedure is years away from being used in humans, it is a medical advance that offers hope for millions of cardiac patients.

Scientists said the new tissue works the same way that the natural valves in the human heart do. The tissues could eventually be used in patients with heart damage and could be a better replacement than artificial valves. Scientists expect to begin animal testing in about three years.

Adult stem cell-based tissues present an advantage over embryonic stem cell research because they can involve the patient's own cells, which is important because embryonic stem cells have problems with being rejected by the immune system.

The bishops’ committee lauds the technique as ethical because stem cells were taken from the patient's own bone marrow rather than from an embryo.

"This development vindicates the consistently held position of the Church, of Catholic ethicists and many other experts in the field who have always maintained that the greatest potential for actual cures lay with adult rather than embryonic stem cells,” said committee chairperson Fr. Paul Murray.

Now that adult stem cells have proven their capacity to provide cures, the committee is calling for the science community to leave behind “the fruitless and destructive research on embryonic stem cells.”