Vatican expert praises discovery of new stem cell technique not involving embryos

Vatican expert praises discovery of new stem cell technique not involving embryos


The chancellor of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Msgr. Ignacio Carrasco, described as “very positive and important” the discovery of a new technique for obtaining stem cells that does not involve the destruction of a human embryo.

Japanese scientist Shinya Yamanaka of the University of Kyoto and American scientist James Thomson of the University of Wisconsin, published the results of their discovery in the magazines Cell and Science.

Both were able to obtain stem cells using human skin cells.  Scientists are calling the discovery revolutionary as it would allow doctors to create stem cells with a specific patient's genetic code, eliminating the risk that the body would reject transplanted tissues or organs.

Speaking to Europa Press, Msgr. Carrasco said that in addition to being “an important scientific step,” the discovery also shows that many scientists have “taken seriously” the “ethical objections” to the cloning of human embryos.

In this sense, the fact that two different groups of scientists have embarked on this project shows that “researchers also have a conscience,” Msgr. Carrasco said.

However, he noted with concern that the controversy over research with human embryos “would continue,” since therapeutic cloning “was only a justification” and interest in the manipulation of embryos continues, especially from an economic point of view.

Professor Lukas Kenner of the Institute of Clinical Pathology at the University of Vienna and until recently a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, said this discovery confirms that “research with embryos has no future,” and that those who “insist on continuing down this road have other motives.”

Ideological and economical motives

In an interview with the Italian daily Avvenire, Kenner pointed to “ideological motives” behind the push for embryonic stem-cell research.  “It must be made clear that any attempt to create life apart from the fusion of the sperm and the egg is not justifiable from the biological point of view. On the contrary, to separate the attribution of human dignity from the beginning of biological life is bio-ethically explosive,” he said.

Kenner also pointed out the economic interests that exist behind the support for embryonic stem-cell research, especially since experimentation with animals “is much more costly.”  “Liberalizing research with embryos would mean huge economic savings for research labs,” he said.