Pluripotent Stem Cells

Stem cell breakthrough praised by bishops


Prelates across the United States are lauding the Japanese research team of Dr. Shinya Yamanaka and the University of Wisconsin-Madison team of Dr. James Thomson for their efforts in advancing stem-cell research.

In a press release yesterday, Philadelphia Cardinal, Justin Rigali commended the scientific advances:

“Studies published this week in the journals Cell and Science offer new hope for advancing stem cell research and therapies while fully respecting the dignity of human life.

“Scientists in Japan and Wisconsin used four genes to ‘reprogram’ ordinary adult human cells, creating ‘induced pluripotent stem cells’ (iPS cells).  James Thomson, head of the Wisconsin team and the founder of human embryonic stem cell research, says these cells ‘meet the defining criteria’ for pluripotent human embryonic stem cells, ‘with the significant exception that the iPS cells are not derived from embryos.’

“Thus the goal sought for years through failed attempts at human cloning – the production of ‘pluripotent’ stem cells that are an exact genetic match to a patient – has been brought within reach by an ethical procedure. This technology avoids the many ethical landmines associated with embryonic stem cell research: it does not clone or destroy human embryos, does not harm or exploit women for their eggs, and does not blur the line between human beings and other species through desperate efforts to make human embryos using animal eggs.  Ian Wilmut, head of the team that cloned ‘Dolly’ the sheep, now says he is abandoning efforts at human ‘therapeutic cloning’ to pursue this adult cell reprogramming avenue instead, because it is technically superior as well as ‘easier to accept socially.’

“I am grateful today for scientists who took up the challenge of finding morally acceptable ways to pursue stem cell research, and for government leaders who have encouraged and funded such avenues.  This advance reminds us once again that medical progress and respect for human life are not in conflict; they can and should support and enrich one another for the good of all.”

In a press release, Madison, Wisconsin Bishop Robert C. Morlino also offered his praise to the research team.

“Catholic voices in the bio-medical community have consistently claimed that ethical alternatives could be found to make the destruction of human life through embryonic stem cell research unnecessary. I continue to support the successful work being done by so many researchers using adult stem cells and I thank and congratulate those researchers and scientists who have now found a seemingly ethical way to replicate ‘embryonic’ or pluripotent stem cells without destroying human lives.

“Now that this breakthrough has been made and research with pluripotent stem cells can move forward in a seemingly ethical way, I reiterate my insistence that there is never a reason to sacrifice human lives for the sake of hoped-for but heretofore unrealized scientific advances.

“This breakthrough is certainly among the many gifts of God for which all of us should be grateful this Thanksgiving.”

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