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Vatican calls off conference on medical use of stem cells

The Irish Stem Cell Foundation has expressed regret over the decision, saying the Vatican’s willingness to host the conference had been seen as the beginning of “a dialogue” on the issue.

Image: PA

THE VATICAN HAS cancelled a controversial stem-cell conference that was due to be attended by Pope Benedict XVI next month.

The Third International Congress on Responsible Stem Cell Research, which was scheduled for 25–28 April, was set to focus on clinical applications of adult and reprogrammed stem cells.

Several were scheduled to attend, including Alan Trounson, president of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine in San Francisco, and keynote speaker George Daley, a stem-cell scientist at Children’s Hospital Boston in Massachusetts. Both are involved in research using human embryonic stem cells – a practise that the Catholic Church has deemed unethical.

The Irish Stem Cell Foundation (ISCF) has expressed regret over the decision, saying that some of the world’s “best stem cell scientists” from Harvard University and the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine were due to speak. It added:

The willingness of the Vatican to host the conference was seen by many as evidence that the Church were starting a dialogue on this important issue.

The ISCF said that, by cancelling its own conference four weeks ahead of the set date, the Vatican was “clearly still struggling with its own position”. It added that it hoped the Church will also become “more understanding and accommodating of stem cell research – as its full clinical benefit will be realised over the coming decades.”

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