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Thursday, June 16, 2011


VATICAN CITY, 16 JUN 2011 (VIS) - At midday today in the Holy See Press Office a forthcoming international conference on the theme "Adult Stem Cells: Science and the Future of Man and Culture" was presented. The conference, organised by the Science and Faith Department of the Pontifical Council for Culture, is due to be held in the Vatican from 9 to 11 November.

  Participating in today's presentation were Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture; Fr. Tomasz Trafny, director of the Science and Faith Department of the same pontifical council, and Robin L. Smith, chairwoman and CEO of NeoStem Inc., U.S.A.

  Fr. Trafny explained why his dicastery is participating in an initiative on adult stem cells, why it is collaborating with the biopharmaceutical company NeoStem and what projects have emerged from such collaboration.

  "For some time", he said, "the Pontifical Council for Culture has been working to promote serious dialogue between the natural sciences and the humanities, especially philosophy and theology. One example of this is the STOQ Project (Science Theology and the Ontological Quest)".

  "However", he went on, "our interest in this field of research is circumscribed. It aims to explore the cultural impact of adult stem cell research and of regenerative medicine in the medium and long term".

  The pontifical council's collaboration with NeoStem arises from "the fact that we share the same sensitivity towards those ethical values that are centred on the protection of human life at all stages of its existence", said Fr. Trafny, noting that the two institutions also share "an interest in studying the possible cultural impact of scientific discoveries arising from research on adult stem cells, and their application in the field of regenerative medicine".

  "As concerns possible future projects", he concluded, "we wish to help students of Pontifical Universities and other Catholic educational institutions to investigate issues linked to the relationships between the natural sciences and the humanities, in a possible framework for interdisciplinary research".

  The conference - which will also bring together people who do not have a background in the life sciences or in medicine - is being organised in association with the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care and the Pontifical Academy for Life.

  For her part, Robin Smith explained that her company is "pioneering new medical research with adult stem cells. This research has the potential to alleviate human suffering by unlocking the healing power of the human body", she said. "Most importantly, we are able to do all this without destroying another human life".

  "No embryos are destroyed to collect adult stem cells. ... We believe that human life is unique and needs to be protected at every stage of its existence. Adult Stem Cell research allows us to advance scientific knowledge while protecting this ethical position. ... These cells are called very small embryonic-like stem cells or VSELs, ... and have many of the beneficial characteristics of an embryonic stem cell, but without the moral and ethical obstacles because these cells are taken from adults, not embryos or foetuses".

  "Our partnership with the Vatican is focused on four things", Dr. Smith concluded: "advancing science, eliminating human suffering, educating today's society as well as future generations, and encouraging collaboration in the furtherance of these goals".
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