World Experts Gather in Rome to Debate Stem Cell Dilemma

Closed-Door Session Under Way

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ROME, NOV. 13, 2001 ( A group of the world´s most renowned experts in the field of human stem cells have gathered for a two-day, closed-door session of intense discussion regarding the harvesting and use of such cells.

The stem cell colloquium takes place as most European countries prepare to rule on legislation regarding the use of human stem cells.

The colloquium is co-sponsored by the Guilé Foundation, Switzerland; the Department of Biochemistry of Francisco de Vitoria University, Madrid, Spain; and the School of Bioethics of the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum, Rome. It opened today at Regina Apostolorum´s Rome campus.

The event will address the topic from scientific, philosophical, ethical and social angles, and will conclude with a symposium open to the public.

In recent years, scientists have opened doors to entirely new and promising medical possibilities.

The ability to obtain stem cells, cultivate them in vitro, have them develop into determined types of cells and tissues, and use them therapeutically to cure human diseases, offers curative alternatives that were inconceivable until just recently.

The hope awakened by these new prospects has been accompanied by questions of an ethical character, echoing the concerns that shaped the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki.

In that document, the World Medical Association affirmed that «the concern for the interest of the subject must always prevail over the interests of science and society.»

Speakers at the colloquium include Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, archbishop of Genoa, Italy, and a leading Church expert on bioethics; Esmail Zanjani from the University of Nevada, a pioneer of adult stem cell research; and Salvatore Mancuso from the Gemelli Sacred Heart Hospital in Rome.

Mancuso years ago discovered the possibility of using the blood of the umbilical cord after birth for the production of stem cells for that person.

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