ROME, April 10, 2013 ( – The Vatican has said that a conference it is sponsoring this week on ethical stem cell research will help to correct the public misperceptions of the burgeoning scientific field. The conference, spokesmen said, is part of an effort to “overcome prejudice and antagonism, promoting the logic of dialogue and cooperation.”

The Church, he said, wants “to have a cultural influence on society, pointing to research models of excellence that are, nevertheless, in tune with the highest moral values of protecting the life and dignity of the human being from the moment of conception”. 

At a press conference on Friday, Msgr. Tomasz Trafny, head of the Pontifical Council for Culture’s Science and Faith foundation, said the conference, “Regenerative Medicine: A Fundamental Shift in Science & Culture,” will help the public “understand what consequences the field of regenerative medicine in general and adult stem cells in particular might have upon society and culture.” 

“Contemporary science seems increasingly hermetic, impenetrable to the uninitiated and, as such, needs translating, without which it sometimes becomes difficult, if not impossible, to follow its developments,” Msgr. Tomasz said.

Pro-life critics have often lamented that the media has been disseminating inaccurate information about the stem cell research field, often seemingly in order to gloss over the humanity of the embryo.

Aware of this problem, the Vatican says that speakers at the conference have been asked “to make their knowledge more accessible to those without a scientific background.” 

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Last year the Vatican’s stem cell conference was the centre of controversy, and eventually cancelled, when it was revealed that the keynote address was to be delivered by George Daley, the Boston Children’s hospital researcher responsible for furnishing 11 of the 13 human embryonic stem cell lines approved by President Barack Obama’s Administration for research in 2009. The conference was cancelled after objections by members of the Pontifical Academy for Life, who said that a Vatican conference on such a potentially controversial subject must be above ethical criticism. 

The Vatican has been among the world’s biggest promoters of highly successful adult stem cell trials. In 2011, the Pontifical Council for Culture announced it was investing $1 million in a US company that specialises in adult stem cells. At that time, Msgr. Trafny said the investment was to demonstrate a “clear ethical statement about the value of human life and each stage of its development”.

“[A]dult stem cell research is safe not only from an ethical and moral point of view but from biological, medical point of view,” he said.

Among this year’s presenters is the president and CEO of Osiris Therapeutics, another American company that eschews embryonic cell research.

The company says the stem cells they work with are “obtained from adult volunteer donors, avoiding the controversy surrounding other stem cell technologies”. The donated cells are grown and multiplied and used to treat “hundreds of patients” unrelated to the donor “without rejection, eliminating the need for donor matching and recipient immune suppression”. 

The company’s current research focus includes the use of stem cells for bone marrow recipients being treated for leukemia, cardiac repair after heart attack or congestive heart failure and the prevention and treatment of arthritis.