By Richard Allen
Religion News Service
VATICAN CITY (RNS) A top Vatican official has criticized a decision by the Food and Drug Administration to allow the world's first clinical trials using stem cells derived from human embryos.
"Despite the efforts that are made to deny it, science continues to show us that the embryo is a human being in the making," Elio Sgreccia, president emeritus of the Pontifical Academy for life, told Vatican Radio on Saturday (July 31).
He added that embryos would be "sacrificed to extract the stem cells," arguing "from an ethical point of view, (it) can only receive a negative judgment."
California-based Geron Corp. announced Friday the FDA had given it a green light to carry out tests on volunteer patients who are paralyzed by spinal cord injuries. The original approval for the trials was postponed last year after Geron found small cysts in the rats used in a preclinical study, prompting concern about the treatment's effect on human participants.
Supporters say if successful, the therapy could prompt damaged nerve cells to grow back, enabling patients to recover feeling and movement. Among other ailments, it could help sufferers of Alzheimer's disease and multiple sclerosis.
The Catholic Church supports the use of stem cells extracted from the umbilical cord or certain other parts of the adult body. In May, it announced a joint initiative with the biopharmaceutical company NeoStem, Inc., to expand research of adult stem cell therapies.
The Vatican, however, views stem cells drawn from human embryos as a form of abortion, arguing it destroys another form of nascent human life.