U.S., Canadian Catholics react to new stem-cell research technique

TORONTO (CNS) — Several Catholic officials welcomed a breakthrough in stem-cell research that could advance the science of regenerative medicine, but at least one Catholic ethicist wanted more information about the procedure.

Dr. Andras Nagy of Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital announced a new technique for creating pluripotent stem cells that can develop into most other types of human tissue. Nagy’s method of turning just about any cells, such as skin cells and blood cells, into stem cells avoids the use of spare embryos from in vitro fertilization and bypasses previous techniques that used viruses to turn back the clock on adult cells. Nagy published the results of his research in an online version of the prestigious journal Nature Feb. 27.

In 2005 Nagy created Canada’s first embryonic stem-cell lines from donated embryos. That research led to his discovery of the “piggyBac” method of reprogramming cells without using viruses to deliver growth factors to the cell’s chromosomes. Viruses used to carry growth factors will incorporate themselves into the cells, which then could turn cancerous.

Adult stem cells have been used to treat Parkinson’s, cystic fibrosis and other diseases that break down entire systems in the body.

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