Adult stem cell research has advanced further than many people realize, according to journalists Peggy Noonan and Bill Hemmer, both panelists at the Second International Vatican Stem Cell Conference.
The three-day conference, which concluded Saturday, explored advancements made in the field of adult stem cell research and therapies, and included interventions from experts in the fields of science, medicine, bioethics, politics and journalism.
From the beginning, the Catholic Church has condemned the destruction of embryos for the purpose of research, but has been a supporter of research using adult stem cells.
Peggy Noonan, columnist for the Wall Street Journal, moderated a panel that focused on the political landscape of stem cell research and funding.
It was noted during the panel discussion how the stem cell debate was much more heated in the United States. Explaining the reason for this difference, Noonan told ZENIT, “We are still used to grappling with great political issues from a moral standpoint. It is almost our habit as a nation, for 250 years now. In Europe, this has grown less of a habit. Europe has grown more pragmatic, perhaps.”
She noted how the extent to which adult stem cell research and treatment have advanced, moreover, “takes the pressure – at least in the States, perhaps – off this grinding argument over embryonic stem cells.”
“I am impressed to find out so much is going on in the adult stem cell area,” Noonan continued, saying she had not been “so aware of the scientific progress being made in the area of adult stem cell research.”
“More is happening in the field of medicine than you know,” she said.
Fox News anchor Bill Hemmer, who was also one of the moderators during Friday’s session of the conference, expressed his enthusiasm for what stem cell research could mean for the future of medicine.
“I think it holds tremendous promise,” he told ZENIT, “and as I spoke with many of my panelists earlier [Friday], I’m still curious about applying the performance. How do you take it from promise to performance? And does it actually help change the lives of people?”
“It makes you wonder,” he continued. “If we can grow skin, and if you’re optimistic enough to believe that you can grow a limb, or that you can have your ACL repaired, or a new tendon, or you can go to war and come back and have a leg grow back – this is what they believe! – and if that’s all possible, how does it change the way we live?”
Hemmer also addressed the significance of the Church being so supportive of adult stem cell research, going so far as to organize an international conference with leading experts in the field. “What they’re teaching is that you can contribute to life through your own body,” he said. “The intellect is phenomenal.”
In light of the advances being made in the field, Hemmer welcomed the Vatican backing of the research.
“This will be the future, whether the future is in a year, five years, 10 years, 25 years.”