The Vatican has announced a breakthrough collaboration with biopharmaceutical company NeoStem, which will seek to expand research and raise awareness of the huge potential of adult stem cell therapies.

The agreement will involve further research into adult stem cells, rather than embryonic stem cells, the use of which is vehemently opposed by the Catholic Church as a violation of the religious right to life of any unborn child.

Under the new initiative, NeoStem’s Stem for Life Foundation and the Pontifical Council’s Foundation Science Theology and the Ontological Quest (STOQ) International will work together on a variety of collaborative activities to further the knowledge of the potential of adult stem cells in regenerative medicine.

Reverend Tomasz Trafny from the Pontifical Council for Culture said that the church views such research as a critical step to a breakthrough in relieving needless human suffering.

“Considering the potential implication of scientific investigation, medical applicability and the cultural impact of research on adult stem cells, we view the collaboration with NeoStem as a critical effort,” Trafny said.

The collaboration will be based on NeoStem’s VSEL technology, which uses very small embryonic-like stem cells, which have the same physical characteristics typically found in embryonic stem cells.

These cells have the ability to differentiate into specialised cells and could be used to re-build degenerated, damaged or diseased tissue, thus achieving the positive benefits associated with embryonic stem cells without ethical or moral dilemmas.

The collaboration will also include educational programmes, publications and academic courses with an interdisciplinary approach for theological and philosophical faculties, including those of bioethics.

By Daniel Garrun