VATICAN (AFP) — A Vatican prelate on Wednesday said the creation of stem cells from skin should not pose the "ethical problems" associated with the use of embryos.
"The new research taking shape should not pose ethical problems," Monsignor Elio Sgreccia, head of the Pontifical Academy for Life, told the religious news agency I-Media. "As of now we consider this process legitimate, pending further verification."
Two teams of researchers in the United States and Japan announced the breakthrough simultaneously on Tuesday.
The use of skin cells will eventually allow doctors to create stem cells with a specific patient's genetic code, eliminating the risk that the body would reject transplanted tissues or organs.
It also will lead to a virtual explosion in the availability of research materials used to test new drugs and understand how diseases like cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer's function.
The Catholic Church "is not concerned about technical processes. It reacts only if a process threatens human dignity," Sgreccia said.
It is this principle that has prompted the Church to reject human cloning and "fight the destruction of embryonic stem cells," he said, adding: "You cannot save the life of one person by killing another. It's ethical Machiavellianism."
Sgreccia said Japanese researcher Shinya Yamanaka, whose team created a line of stem cells using 5,000 skin cells, "took part last year in the work of the Academy for Life here at the Vatican."
Pope John Paul II set up the academy in 1994 to support medical and legal research "relative to the promotion and defence of life, above all in the direct relation that they have with Christian morality" and Church directives.
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