On Friday, the Catholic Church threw its support and resources behind the study of intestinal adult stem cells by a group of experts led by the University of Maryland School of Medicine. The group wants to explore the potential use of those cells in the treatment of intestinal and possibly other diseases, and is seeking an initial euro2 million ($2.7 million) to get the project going, officials said.
"This research protects life," Cardinal Renato Martino said during a meeting with Italian and American scientists and health officials to outline the project. "I want to stress that it doesn't involve embryonic stem cells, where one helps oneself and then throws the embryo away and kills a human life."
The church is opposed to embryonic stem cell research because it involves the destruction of embryos, but it supports the use of adult stem cells, which are found in the bodies of all humans. Human embryonic stem cells are produced from surplus embryos of in vitro fertilization procedures used to help infertile women get pregnant.
Both are prized for their ability to morph into other kinds of cells, offering the possibility of replacing tissue damaged by ailments such as Parkinson's disease.