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Vatican newspaper criticizes embryonic stem-cell research
Cindy Wooden
Source: Catholic News Service
Published: Thursday, May 28, 2009
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VATICAN CITY (CNS)—In the continuing debate over stem-cell research, the ideologues are those who claim it is necessary to use embryonic stem cells, an Italian research physician wrote in the Vatican newspaper.
A growing body of research has proven that a variety of somatic stem cells—usually referred to as adult stem cells—holds more promise for curing many diseases than stem cells derived from embryos, wrote Dr. Angelo L. Vescovi, a professor at Milan's Bicocca University and a researcher at the Cerebral Stem Cell Bank in Terni.
Vescovi's full-page article May 27 in L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, was headlined "Behind embryonic stem-cell research there is only a patent war."
"The decision made in March by U.S. President Barack Obama to use federal funds to finance research on stem cells derived from the destruction of human embryos—embryonic stem cells—has reignited the polemics regarding a theme with complex bioethical implications," the doctor wrote.
He said that while promoters of embryonic stem-cell research like to label opponents as ideologues or religious extremists, science itself has proven that those who insist on destroying human embryos are the ones being unreasonable.
Research is now showing that reprogramming adult stem cells can produce cells that are just as flexible as embryonic stem cells and they can be produced in greater quantity, Vescovi said.
The new procedure is not protected by "by those patents that currently exploit the use of stem cells derived from embryos," he said.
The insistence on continuing embryonic stem-cell research, he said, appears not to be tied to scientific promise, but to "billions of dollars of investment, an entire river of patents and entire careers based precisely on the use of embryos."
Still, the doctor said he was not pessimistic about the future.
"I have been a researcher for almost 30 years and I have faith in the fact that, in research, truth triumphs in the end," he wrote.
"Science, by its nature, inevitably favors the selection and development of the most efficient branches, those that give the most total respect to human life," he said.
What is needed to give a push to research using adult stem cells is simply the dedication of more resources, both human and financial, the doctor said.

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