Pell announces new grant for adult stem cell research

The Sydney Archdiocese will fund a $100,000 grant for research on stem cells, further signalling its guarded support for some experimentation with some types of human cells.

The Courier-Mail reports that Archbishop of Sydney Cardinal George Pell announced the grant yesterday. This follows a $50,000 grant given by the Archdiocese in 2002 which led to a breakthough by Griffith University's Professor Alan Mackay-Sim (pictured) that succeeded in growing adult stem cells harvested from the nose.

With the Church opposed to research on cells harvested from human embryos, research on adult cells has potential to lead to life-saving treatments within the bounds of Church teaching.

Today's Courier-Mail report - written by Pell biographer Tess Livingstone - says that in the US last week, scientists reported new evidence of the effectiveness of treating congestive heart failure with a patient's own stem cells.

Cardinal Pell said breakthroughs in adult stem cell research were exciting and impressive.

"The achievements to date in this area far surpass anything that has been attained in the area of embryonic stem cell research," Cardinal Pell said.

The scientific community had argued that legalising the use of embryos for research would open the way to find cures for disease such as Parkinson's disease, diabetes and genetic conditions such as cystic fibrosis. Federal Parliament passed laws allowing surplus IVF embryos to be used for stem cell research in late 2002 but the church has maintained its opposition to the use of embryonic stem cells.

Cardinal Pell said: "The Catholic Church always supports good science working from a good ethical foundation, and the Archdiocese of Sydney is delighted to be able to collaborate with researchers making inroads in this vitally important area."

The latest grant is the second made available by the Sydney Archdiocese to further research into adult stem cells, and applications have been invited from Australian-based researchers.

An Archdiocesan statement yesterday said the grant will be awarded on the recommendation of an independent assessment panel, whose members include experts on science and ethics, according to the following criteria:

The research meets the highest standards of scientific excellence.
Therapeutic applications are likely to arise from the research.
The research will be innovative, displaying novelty in its experimental approach.
Receipt of this grant will be significant for the undertaking of the research.
The researcher(s) have a track record of success in undertaking similar or related research.
The research complies with the standards set out in Chapter 6 of the Code of Ethical Standards for Catholic Health and Aged Care Services in Australia.

Catholics fund cell research (The Courier Mail 26/7/05)
New Grant for Research on Adult Stem Cells from Catholic Church (Archdiocese of Sydney 25/7/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Archdiocese of Sydney
A Discussion Paper on Ethics, Law & Medical Research Cloning & Stem Cells: A contribution to the national debate (Australian Catholic Bishops Conference 20/9/01)

Cardinal Pell hails stem cell discovery (CathNews 22/3/05)
Sydney Archdiocese announces Church funding for adult stem cell research (CathNews 26/3/03)

26 Jul 2005