Pell announces adult stem cell research grant
Cardinal George Pell announced on Friday that Dr Pritinder Kaur of the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne has won the Archdiocese of Sydney's $100,000 grant to support adult stem cell research.
Dr Kaur, who is Head of the Epithelial Stem Cell Biology Laboratory at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, was awarded the grant for her research into the use of adult stem cells in improving the regeneration of the skin.
The formal title of the research project is "Improving adult skin regeneration for therapeutic purposes: the role of stem cells and the extra cellular matrix protein laminin-10/11".
Dr Kaur's research is aimed at determining whether adult skin stem cells can be made to expand rapidly for transplantation to patients who have sustained severe injuries as a result of fires, bomb blasts or accidents and who urgently need regeneration of their skin to prevent dehydration and susceptibility to infection, both leading causes of patient mortality (death).
Cardinal Pell praised the work being done by Dr Kaur and other researchers in Australia on therapeutic applications for adult stem cells.
"Dr Kaur's work is emblematic of the remarkable progress being made in the field of adult stem cell research", Cardinal Pell said.
"The success and continuing promise of Australian work on adult cells, as represented by Dr Kaur's research and the research of the seven other applicants for the grant, casts doubt on the persistent claim that without relaxation of the restrictions on embryonic research and cloning, our best scientists will leave the country.
"Adult stem cell research is advanced, safe, productive and morally incontestable - a strong contrast with its embryonic stem cell counterpart".
Eight applications from researchers around Australia were made when the grant was advertised in August. Applications were considered by an independent selection panel, which sought referees' reports from a referee nominated by the applicant and a referee identified by the panel and its scientific advisors.
The selection panel, comprising Dr Peter McCullagh, a retired medical researcher, Professor Colin Thomson, Professorial Fellow in the Faculty of Law at the University of Wollongong and Dr Bernadette Tobin, Director of the Plunkett Centre for Ethics at St Vincent's Hospital in Sydney, unanimously recommended Dr Kaur's project for the grant.
Dr Tobin, the Chair of the selection panel, said that while all projects which were submitted by the applicants met the selection criteria and reflected very high standards of scientific excellence, Dr Kaur's project stood out for a number of reasons.
"Dr Kaur's project has the considerable strength of being a direct development of research she has already conducted", Dr Tobin said. "If her research shows that adult skin stem cells can be encouraged rapidly to expand and be transplantable to a patient with severe skin injury, it may become possible to diminish the very high mortality rate which is associated with extensive and severe burns."
The referees who reviewed Dr Kaur's application confirmed the importance of this research, with one referee describing the project as unique to Australia and at the international forefront of scientific knowledge in this area.
This is the second time the Archdiocese of Sydney has offered a grant to support adult stem cell research. A first grant of $50,000 was awarded in 2003.
Cardinal Pell announces winner of $100,000 Adult stem cell research grant (Archdiocese of Sydney 16/12/05)
LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Archdiocese of Sydney
Epithelial Stem Cell Biology Laboratory Project (Peter MacCallum Clinic)
Pell announces new grant for adult stem cell research (CathNews 26/7/05)
Cardinal Pell hails stem cell discovery (CathNews 22/3/05)
Sydney Archdiocese announces Church funding for adult stem cell research (CathNews 26/3/03)
Catholics urged to speak on stem cells (NZ Catholic 18-24/12/05)
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19 Dec 2005