Destruction of Human Embryos Not Needed in Research, Experts Say

Closed-Door Conference Examines Issue of Stem-Cell Use

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ROME, NOV. 14, 2001 ( Research and use of stem cells do not require the destruction of human embryos, affirmed a number of renowned scientists, doctors, theologians, philosophers, and experts in bioethics at a two-day meeting.

Their closed-door session took place as European countries prepare to legislate on the use of stem cells.

The meeting was organized by the Swiss Guilé Foundation, the Department of Biochemistry of the Francisco de Vitoria University Center of Madrid, and by the School of Bioethics of the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum, which hosted the initiative.

During a press conference, participant scientists and bioethicists explained that stem cells taken from the umbilical cord, the placenta, or adult individuals are giving extraordinary results in medical research.

Esmail D. Zanjani, of the Department of Medicine and Physiology of the University of Nevada, explained that research using sheep has given satisfactory results for the treatment of illnesses such as thalassemia. Given their plasticity, stem cells are also very effective in treating heart problems and damaged tissues.

Zanjani said that adult stem cells have been used in these experiments, which have also proved effective in the production of specific proteins for the functioning of the human body.

In this connection, Salvatore Mancuso, director of the Institute of Gynecology of Rome´s Gemelli Hospital, referred to a surprising discovery: The unborn transmits his own stem cells to the mother, when she needs these to repair organs or to support her immune system.

Asked by journalists about the use of embryos to extract stem cells, Mónica López Barahona, of the School of Biochemistry of Francisco de Vitoria, said: «It is unacceptable to think of developing an embryo to take his cells and then destroy him.»

López emphasized that, from the scientific point of view, it is clear that the embryo is a human person from the moment of conception and, therefore, it is ethically unacceptable to use a human life even to save that of others.

Father Gonzalo Miranda, dean of the Regina Apostolorum School of Bioethics, recalled the words of the Nuremberg war-crimes court: «Never again will the use of human beings in medical research be authorized.»

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