The Regenerative Medicine Institute, National University of Ireland Galway, in collaboration with the UK Stem Cell Society held a two-day international stem cell conference in the Bailey Allen Hall in NUI Galway on the 29th and 30th October.
World-renowned experts from the field of stem cell science attended the conference, which focused on the latest developments in basic science and translational aspects of Mesenchymal Stem Cell (MSC) research in Ireland, the UK and worldwide.
MSCs, are adult stem cells which posess enormous potential.
Prof Frank Barry the Scientific Director of REMEDI, the Regenerative Medicine Institute at NUI Galway, told the conference that clinical trials would begin on a number of MSC projects next year. These will include trials in the treatment of peripheral arterial disease and osteoarthritis followed in 2016 by trials in treatments for corneal transplants and diabetic ulcers.
It is a great pity however that this conference was marred by calls for embryonic stem cell research which ignores the fact that human embryos must be killed for such research to be carried out.
Despite the fact that such major strides have been made in the production of adult stem cells and that millions of dollars have been wasted on attempts to manipulate embryonic stem cells without any success researchers brush aside both the ethical concerns and the lack of success and still insist that embryonic stem cell research is essential.
According to a report in the Irish Independent on Oct 30th Prof Barry said that, while Ireland is at the front of research in adult stem cell projects and can compete internationally, it has made "little contribution" to the area of embryonic stem cell research. Professor Barry acknowledged that he was aware of objections to the process on the basis of ethical concerns but believed such research could give rise to important treatments and should be developed in Ireland.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in an address to participants at a conference arranged by the Pontifical Academy for Life in 2011 on adult stem cells told them that,
“(T) those who advocate research on embryonic stem cells in the hope of achieving such a result make the grave mistake of denying the inalienable right to life of all human beings from the moment of conception to natural death. The destruction of even one human life can never be justified in terms of the benefit that it might conceivably bring to another.”Extracts from the address by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI are set out below"Since human beings are endowed with immortal souls and are created in the image and likeness of God, there are dimensions of human existence that lie beyond the limits of what the natural sciences are competent to determine. If these limits are transgressed, there is a serious risk that the unique dignity and inviolability of human life could be subordinated to purely utilitarian considerations. But if instead these limits are duly respected, science can make a truly remarkable contribution to promoting and safeguarding the dignity of man"."In this sense, the potential benefits of adult stem cell research are very considerable, since it opens up possibilities for healing chronic degenerative illnesses by repairing damaged tissue. ... The improvement that such therapies promise would constitute a significant step forward in medical science, bringing fresh hope to sufferers and their families alike. For this reason, the Church naturally offers her encouragement to those who are engaged in conducting and supporting research of this kind, always with the proviso that it be carried out with due regard for the integral good of the human person and the common good of society.[…] When the end in view is one so eminently desirable as the discovery of a cure for degenerative illnesses, it is tempting for scientists and policy-makers to brush aside ethical objections and to press ahead with whatever research seems to offer the prospect of a breakthrough. Those who advocate research on embryonic stem cells in the hope of achieving such a result make the grave mistake of denying the inalienable right to life of all human beings from the moment of conception to natural death. The destruction of even one human life can never be justified in terms of the benefit that it might conceivably bring to another.[...]"Yet, in general, no such ethical problems arise when stem cells are taken from the tissues of an adult organism, from the blood of the umbilical cord at the moment of birth".