In a surprising move, the Vatican has agreed to fund a stem cell research program conducted by the University of Maryland. No, the Church hasn’t gone crazy, the financial support falls in line with what the Catholic Church deems to be beneficial research. That is, the Church supports stem cell research outside of embryonic stem cells.
The Vatican donated $2.7 million to the cause in an agreement signed last Friday in Rome. Contrary to popular belief, the Catholic Church encourages adult stem cell research. Embryonic stem cell research, however, is a highly contentious issue the Church considers “gravely immoral” because it involves the use of embryos, which the Church considers nascent human beings.
Dr. Alessio Fasano, director of the Center for Celiac Research at the University of Maryland School of Medicine will lead the project. He pitched the project to the Vatican himself, offering them what he deems “a better way” for stem cell research.
The focus of the research will be mainly on stem cells harvested from adult intestines. Harvesting is easily performed through a routine procedure known as an endoscopy. They hope the research will aid in treating diseases – the cells are akin to blank slates that can transform into any type of cell and also replicate quite rapidly.
Patients with celiac diseases will be the first studied.
The money from the Vatican will actually go to a Vatican supported medical school and hospital in Italy. The facility there will the give the money to the University of Maryland and other members of the research group.