By Rebecca Blatt
The University of Maryland and the Catholic Church are partnering to support adult stem cell research.
The Vatican is pushing for research of adult stem cells as an alternative to the use of embryonic stem cells, taken from surplus embryos of in-vitro fertilization procedures. The Catholic Church opposes the use of embryonic stem cells, saying it amounts to the killing of human life.
The Vatican insists that scientists can develop viable alternatives. It has agreed to help finance the study of intestinal adult stem cells. The study is led by the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
Officials say the project is at a very preliminary phase and it will be years before any clinical treatment could be available.
Embryonic cells are thought to be more versatile than adult cells ones, and are considered to have more potential for the treatment of diseases such as diabetes and Parkinson's disease.
But adult stem cells could be easier to use if they are taken from patients themselves, because the replacement tissue could have a smaller chance of being rejected.