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Cardinal Pell hails stem cell discovery

Cardinal George Pell will refer to the Vatican an Australian scientific breakthrough that could make obsolete the moral and ethical debate surrounding embryonic stem cell research.

The Australian reports that Dr Alan Mackay-Sim of Griffith University in Brisbane yesterday published the results of a four-year project that succeeded in growing adult stem cells harvested from the nose.

The cells appear to be able to deliver everything that embryonic stem cell research promises, but without the medical and ethical side-effects.

Professor Mackay-Sim (pictured) said the easily harvested and grown olfactory stem cells are capable of being turned into heart cells, brain cells, nerve cells, indeed almost any kind of cell in the body, without the problems of rejection or tumours forming, which can happen in one in five cases when embryonic stem cells are injected into the body.

The university research team, partially funded by a $50,000 grant from the Catholic Church directly approved by Cardinal Pell, appears to have found a direct and non-controversial alternative to the use of stem cells derived from leftover embryos created during IVF fertility treatment.

Cardinal Pell, who has lobbied for a national ban on embryonic stem cell research, said there is a real possibility the findings have made "an enormous contribution".

"I would be happy to communicate it to the Pontifical Academy of Science to expedite the scientific examination and also to spread the word about the success," he said.

He also indicated he was prepared to put more Catholic funding into the project.

Federal Health Minister Tony Abbott, who officially launched the publication of the team's paper in the peer-reviewed journal Developmental Dynamics, expressed relief that "we may be delivered from ... all those moral dilemmas".

State governments recently turned down a proposal from John Howard to extend by another year restrictions imposed in 2002 on stem cell research using surplus IVF embryos.

Senator Ron Boswell, leader of the Nationals in the Senate, said the giant leap forward made by the research proves that adult stem cell research, not embryonic research, was the way of the future.

"This new adult cell technology now puts them way ahead of embryo stem cell research," Senator Boswell said. "Science has spoken loud and clear and come out on the side of adult stem cells."

Pell hails stem cell discovery (The Australian 22/3/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Griffith Univesity School of Biomolecular & Biomedical Science: Professor Alan Mackay-Sim
Alan Mackay-Sim: A Researcher's Perspective (The Brisbane Institute)
Practical Problems with Embryonic Stem Cells (US Conference of Catholic Bishops)
Bishops support ethical research on stem cells (Australian Catholic Bishops Conference 22/9/01)
A Discussion Paper on Ethics, Law & Medical Research Cloning & Stem Cells: A contribution to the national debate (Australian Catholic Bishops Conference 20/9/01)
The Griffith key to innovation in biotechnology (Innovation Australia)

Sydney Archdiocese announces Church funding for adult stem cell research (CathNews 26/3/03)
Ethicist stresses moral inviolability of embryonic stem cells (CathNews 5/10/04)
US cardinal talks up benefits of adult stem cell research (CathNews 19/10/04)
Adult marrow breakthrough at Sydney's St Vincent's Hospital (CathNews 30/1/03)
Catholic Health calls for delay in embryo research bill (CathNews 24/6/02)
St Vincent's Hospital research sidesteps moral dilemma (CathNews 16/4/02)

Former Queenslander of the Year makes world breakthrough on stem cells (Senator Ron Boswell 21/3/05)
Sweet cell of success (The Australian 22/3/05)
Embryo advance by SA team (The Age 20/3/05)

22 Mar 2005