September 29, 2020

The Niche

Knoepfler lab stem cell blog

Perspectives on Vatican Stem Cell Meeting: CIRM, Embryonic & Adult Stem Cells

Over the years, the Vatican has expressed interest and even invested money in the adult stem cell field. Not surprisingly, they’ve also been critical of embryonic stem cell research.

Vatican stem cell meeting

Interestingly their own stem cell meetings have at times stimulated heated debate for various reasons and one was even cancelled with at least part of the reason related to embryonic stem cell research.

It’s notable then to see the list of speakers for this year’s Vatican stem cell meeting includes both prominent embryonic stem cell researcher Doug Melton and CIRM President Randy Mills as CIRM is a strong supporter of embryonic stem cell research.

In that one past year’s Vatican meeting that got cancelled part of the controversy was over the invitation of then CIRM President Allan Trounson and embryonic stem cell researcher George Daley.

So why would the Vatican invite Melton and Mills this year and is that an encouraging sign? I’m not sure.

Mills spoke 3 years ago at the Vatican stem cell meeting back then, but this was before he was President of CIRM, and he was instead the President and Chief Executive Officer of Osiris Therapeutics, an adult stem cell-focused company.

I asked CIRM about Mills’ participation this year and got this quote from him:

“We are committed to accomplishing our mission of accelerating stem cell treatments to patients with unmet medical needs. We are encouraged that the Vatican is taking a leadership role by bringing together an outstanding collection of voices from the stem cell community to try to find common solutions to some very real problems. We are honored to participate.”

This week’s Vatican meeting as was the case for the 2013 one will be focused only on adult stem cell therapies as you can see reflected in the other speakers, but I’m curious to see how it plays out overall. I’m a fan of both adult and embryonic stem cells as I believe that both represent ethical approaches to help patients who need new options.

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