October 21, 2011


Peyton and stem-cell therapy

Back on Sept. 18, Jay Glazer of Fox Sports reported that Indianapolis Colts’ quarterback Peyton Manning went to Europe for stem-cell therapy before his third neck surgery. Up to now, neither the Colts nor Manning has confirmed or denied the report—as far as we know.

If true, why would Manning fly to Europe for such treatment?

Because more work is being done with adult stem-cell therapy in Europe than in the United States. It is unfortunate that too much attention is being paid in this country to embryonic stem-cell research, which requires the destruction of embryos, and not enough attention to the far more promising area of adult stem-cell therapy.

The Catholic Church encourages research into the ways that adult

stem-cell therapy can benefit people. All the way back to the year 2000, the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life issued a “Declaration on the Production and Scientific and Therapeutical Use of Human Embryonic Stem Cells.” It opposed such use.

But then it went on to say, “The possibility, now confirmed, of using adult stem cells to attend the same goals as would be sought with embryonic stem cells … indicates that adult stem cells represent a more reasonable and human method for making correct and sound progress in this new field of research and in the therapeutic applications which it promises. These applications are undoubtedly a source of great hope for a significant number of suffering people.”

That quotation was in an article by Michelle Martin in the Sept. 11 issue of the national Catholic weekly Our Sunday Visitor. It told about the work being done by the John Paul II Stem Cell Research Institute in Coralville, Iowa. The name of the institute, and the fact that Bishop Robert Finn of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., is a member of its board, indicate the approval the Church gives to its research.

The institute is only four years old, and is now trying to raise $10 million for its own building. Of course, it also has to find continued funding for its future research.

While the federal government has been funding embryonic stem-cell research, it seems to completely overlook the advances made by adult stem-cell therapy. That’s not true in other countries, where 80 percent of biotechnical companies are involved in adult stem-cell research.

The fact is that there remains no proof that embryonic stem cells are the panacea that many people think they will be. The Catholic Church opposes this research because the process of extracting the cells always results in the death of the embryo. The Church accepts the biological truth that a human embryo is human life, and it teaches that all human life is sacred.

It should be noted that an “adult” stem cell does not necessarily come from an adult. It can come from anything from a late fetus onward.

In practice, the cells come from bone marrow, umbilical cord blood and that roll of fat that laps over our belts.

Stem-cell therapy often involves the use of the patient’s own stem cells.

Adult stem cells are already being used in the treatment of about 60 diseases, including damage from heart attacks and strokes, various types of cancer, anemia, Parkinson’s disease and spinal cord injuries. They have even been used to grow new corneas to restore sight to blind patients.

The John Paul II Stem Cell Research Institute aims to “create a faster and more streamlined process in doing research that will find cures and therapies exclusively using a variety of adult stem cells.”

Its founder is Dr. Alan Moy, who is also founder and CEO of Cellular Engineering Technology, a biotech company that specializes in adult stem cells. He says that “the federal government is ignoring human adult stem-cell research” in its concentration on embryonic stem-cell research.

If Catholics want to show their commitment to respecting human life at all of its stages, they should back adult stem-cell research.

“Human adult stem-cell research is being shortchanged,” Moy says. “The country is not advancing in any strategic way human adult stem-cell research.”

That may be why Peyton Manning flew to Europe for treatment—if he actually did so.

—John F. Fink

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