Could new Pope equal new Vatican policy on stem cells?

The Catholic Church has long opposed embryonic stem cell research even as it has shown signs of getting more interested in adult stem cell research.

I am an advocate of both types of research and both go on in my own lab.

Now that we will have a new Pope this year, I wonder how this new leader of the Catholic Church might impact stem cell research?

Naively, one might say that the new Pope could be less polarizing on stem cell research, but I think the odds are that the new Pope will be just as extreme as his predecessor.

I suspect the Vatican will continue to cast embryonic stem cell research as a sin. To the contrary, I believe that the use of embryonic stem cells to potentially help millions of living, breathing human beings stop suffering and dying is quite ethical.

While I have almost zero hope of a course correction on policy by the Vatican with the new Pope, I am curious however if the new Pope will continue the current trend of the Vatican so actively supporting (including with cash ($1 million and more)) adult stem cell research including by holding annual adult stem cell research conferences and working with NeoStem as it has been doing (or trying to do) for the last couple years.


5 thoughts on “Could new Pope equal new Vatican policy on stem cells?

  1. First I want to apologize. You may very well be working on MSCs, the subject of virtually all your derisive content on the blog and the area where you seem most comfortable giving quotes as an “expert” on the cells you have said you . Alas I could find no publications regarding MSCs on your web page of publications at UC Davis ( ) except for a paper in the prestigious journal Nature: “My year as a stem cell blogger. 2011 Jul 27;475(7357):425,” which must refer to your many blog publications on MSCs (I haven’t read the piece; I will just trust that you’d not make claims about safety of MSCs without citing your research).

    I am perplexed then that you’d have a problem finding the most important person who interacts with the world’s largest religion about stem cells, eminent stem cell researcher Dr. Colin McGuckin, the “stem cell advisor to the Pope,” (, and who at last report was also head of CTI Lyon, “a non-profit charitable institute committed to ethical stem cell research creating new therapies.” ( In 2008, citing a fact that remains true in the UK, and is reflected in the level [absence] of scholarship by the critics whom you applaud as champions of MSC safety, Dr McGuckin spoke of his decision to leave the UK for France: . Take a read, if you aren’t going to review the 50+ studies I’ve posted on your blog in the last 6 months.

    Hey I have an idea. What if you interviewed someone who had a clue about the Vatican instead of treating it as a “scoop” requiring no reportage.

    I think, as a former blogger myself with thousands of posts to my own authorship including an endless critique of Hurlbut, of the Kass nonsense that ensued after non-stem cell expert and fake Stanford professor Hurlbut provided his “George Bush Second Term Agenda” including creation of “ethical” pluripotent cells, and my critique of the Nature issue in which ridiculous “work-arounds” for hESCs including making handicapped (self-destructing) embryos were proposed alongside what would eventually evolve into iPSCs, namely the sucking out of a cell from a soon-to-be-implanted embryo, and thus making a genetic clone without destroying the “snowflakes,” ( Of course iPSCs don’t begin with embros or their clonal ‘relatives’ (Bush-speak). But no one contests that iPS cells were a political invention that spawned scientific innovations (my favorite “ethics dodge”: But afterwards, lots of progress. No clinical trials. No patient improvement. Huge safety issues that outstrip MSCs by a country mile. But lots of progress. Enough that scientists in California (alone among US researchers, where (per Alex) show 52% of trials being MSC-based) are having a grand time with centers whose name is like yours, promoting “bridges to cures.” I wonder what you’d say if an MSC group used such a motto.

    Anyway, as a non-Catholic, I guess I am surprised that the Vatican’s stem cell advisor isn’t on your radar. Might want to contact him?

  2. I doubt the Church’s position on the ethical use of embryonic stem cell research will be changed, Paul. However, I can well imagine a new Pope deciding to dial back overt engagement with alternative approaches. I know from last year’s conference that more than a few Cardinals in the Curia had serious misgivings about having *any* kind of conference on stem cells, and from what I gather, some of their displeasure is what caused the cancellation of the event that was to take place last Spring.

  3. Glenn,
    There is no reason to be so aggressively vindictive. Paul never says that he worked with MSCs. He was referring to adult stem cells (which also includes cancer stem cells). I agree with all Paul has said in past postings about unproven adult stem cell therapies and I have been working in the field since 1970 (hematopoietic, mesenchymal, cancer, breast, iPS…). I was there when…(or at least I knew those who did it).

    This posting is raising questions about potential changes in catholic church policy with a new pope, which is a good question and your response does not really address.

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