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Catholic research org. creates ethical, safe pluripotent stem cells, without using embryos

Lisa Bourne Lisa Bourne Follow Lisa

CORALVILLE, Iowa, January 23, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Two Iowa-based organizations, a biotechnology company and a Catholic medical research non-profit, have achieved a breakthrough in regenerative medicine that will advance personalized diagnostics and medicine, drug development and stem cell therapy – all within the bounds of Catholic moral teaching.

Cellular Engineering Technologies (CET) and the John Paul II Medical Research Institute (JP2MRI), along with the University of Iowa, announced the regenerative medicine milestone of creating safer and ethical pluripotent stem cells from cord blood and peripheral blood obtained from donors.

The new method means that there is now an ethical alternative to the unethical method of harvesting embryonic stem cells from a newly conceived human person (embryo), often at the cost of that person's life. 

The organizations, which were founded by Dr. Alan Moy, published their findings late last year in an ahead of publication notification in the scientific journal Regenerative Medicine.  

“We have developed a new method to produce safer and non-controversial pluripotent stem cells,” Moy told LifeSiteNews.

The study, titled, “Virus-free and oncogene-free induced pluripotent stem cell reprogramming in cord blood and peripheral blood in patients with lung disease,” shows for the first time a new approach to create induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) without the need to use viruses, and more importantly, said Moy, the standard oncogenes, or cancer genes, used to produce iPSC.  

CET and JP2MRI are setting up a joint venture to create a private bank to produce induced pluripotent stem cells for lifelong regenerative medicine.  

“The new iPSC bio-bank will also allow the consumer to create a personalized iPSC from peripheral blood,” said Moy. “Thus, the consumer can still create a lifelong pluripotent stem cell even if they failed to store their cord blood.”

The two organizations will create personalized iPSC from privately banked cord blood and from peripheral blood while donors are young and healthy enough to create a personalized iPSC. 

The private iPSC bank will provide lifetime diagnostic applications, more efficient drug development and potentially regenerative medicine solutions as donors get older and chronic disease can become more prevalent, Moy said. Some of the proceeds from the bank will allow JP2MRI to conduct iPSC research to develop treatment for its therapeutic priorities, including neurodegenerative disease, cancer, rare diseases and diseases unmet or underperformed by the pharmaceutical industry.

CET and JP2MRI’s bio-bank will also address fundamental problems in healthcare, he said.

These issues include less consumer control over healthcare choice and costs; increased insurance costs with decreased value for healthcare coverage; mitigation against future Medicare insolvency; and a lack of pharmaceutical company investments in regenerative medicine. 

Embryonic stem cells are pluripotent stem cells, Moy explained, but are ethically controversial, both for their destruction of human life for research and their practical application.

Japanese scientist Dr. Shinya Yamanaka introduced the induced pluripotent stem cell in 2006, which results from genetic transformation of adult cells into embryonic-like stem cells. Yamanaka later won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for the breakthrough in 2012.

As with embryonic stem cells, prior iPSC used oncogenes (cancer genes), which causes tumors. 

Earlier in 2017 Moy’s organizations published the first report of virus-free and oncogene-free iPSC in neonatal skin cells in the journal Future Science Open Access.

“In this more recent publication, we successfully applied this same method to convert cord blood and peripheral blood into virus-free and oncogene-free iPSC,” he said. “This is the first time that iPSC have been created without viruses and oncogenes to make them safer from infection and tumors.”

The technology is particularly important for cord blood and peripheral blood banking by eliminating the shortcoming of private and public cord blood banking, he said.

Many parents privately bank their child’s cord blood for future regenerative medicine therapy. But Moy said there are significant limits to this approach. 

Cord blood is rarely used during childhood, there’s not enough stem cells in cord blood for future use for the donor during adulthood and Cord blood has restricted utility for only treating blood disorders.  

“Conversion of cord blood and peripheral blood into iPSC now potentially offers lifetime and personalized regenerative medicine for a wide variety of diseases that cord blood cannot,” he told LifeSiteNews.

The CET and JP2MRI breakthrough also provides Catholic healthcare institutions the ability to maintain their Catholic identity with an alternative to the use of human embryos and aborted fetal tissue in pharmaceutical products.

There is a need to promote ethical therapeutics, Moy said, and he thinks the biotechnology field is moving quickly, but not always ethically.

The Church has largely ignored biotechnology, he said, citing a number of reasons for this, including a lack of people in Catholic healthcare with biotech backgrounds, and the sex abuse scandal commanding attention.

In the past, the Catholic healthcare system has largely avoided the issue, said Moy. But, as unethical treatments become more mainstream — and because they are specialized they will need to be done in a hospital setting — it will put Catholic hospitals in a quandary.

With all the new threats and challenges of running a hospital, Moy observed, Catholics have the additional challenge of maintaining Catholic identity, and those Catholic healthcare providers that believe in the Magisterium are going to be in jobs that put them at risk.

“I’m not sure they will have the luxury of exercising their moral consciences,” he said.

With a decline in Catholic identity often seen in the Church, and in particular Catholic colleges, Moy looks forward to being part of maintaining that identity in Catholic healthcare

“This work is the last hope for what could be protecting against the potential decline of the last pillar of our Catholic institutions - Catholic hospitals- from decades of secular biotechnology,” he said.

Moy said the initial costs for donors to the bio-bank are going to be more expensive than typical private cord blood banking costs, which run $1500 to $2000, because it takes 2-3 months to produce the iPSC. He expects that in time as demand and volume increase; the costs will come down and will be comparable to a high-quality personal computer.

The two organizations are currently taking a waiting list for the bio-bank and offering an introductory discount of 20%.

CET is a biopharmaceutical company located in Coralville, IA, that manufactures human stem cells and proteins for academia, industry and government research organizations.  CET also offers personalized stem cell bio-banking service for the consumer market.

JP2MRI is a non-profit medical research organization with the mission to conduct adult stem cell research for its therapeutic priorities, which includes neurodegenerative diseases; rare diseases; cancer; and chronic diseases that are unmet and underperformed by the biopharmaceutical industry. The Institute conducts ethical medical research consistent within the framework of Catholic moral teaching, which includes avoiding the use of human embryos and aborted fetal tissue in medical research.  

To learn more about the private iPSC banking visit CET’s website (www.celleng-tech.com). Or, for more information, contact CET at [email protected], or (319) 688-7367 for the John Paul II Medical Research Institute.



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