Embronic Stem Cells are Not “Panacea for All Ills”

Says Geneticist Angelo Vescovi at Rimini Meeting

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RIMINI, Italy, AUG. 27, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Far from what is often thought and published, "embryonic stem cells rarely have the expected effect," said Professor Angelo Luigi Vescovi.



Vescovi, co-director of the Stem Cell Research Institute of Milan's St. Raphael Hospital, addressed the The Meeting of Friendship Among Peoples in Rimini, Italy this week. The meeting is organized by the ecclesial movement Communion and Liberation.

An international expert on the subject, Vescovi, a geneticist, stressed that the idea that "the totipotent cells extracted from embryos are really the panacea of all ills is not founded scientifically."

According to the professor, "stem cells are present in the human organism developed in the fetus until the individual's death. And they are there to work as a great and extraordinary maintenance office" which functions "at all times of the day to replace the cells that die even with the most ordinary movements."

The scientist said that the stem cells are available for all types of tissues, ready to heal any injury, if necessary. Every 15 days all the red corpuscles of a person are replaced.

Professor Vescovi emphasized that "real stem cells are those of adults," which "in specialist terms are called 'somatic' or ‘pluripotent.’"

Instead, the embryonic stem cells are called totipotent—or all-potent— and are designed to "create, not to repair," he clarified.

"Contrary to what the media says, stem cells rarely have the expected effect. They could even turn out to be very dangerous, creating the conditions for the formation of neoplasm or tumors," he noted.

In connection with the above, Vescovi specified that the "embryo is a human being…this is undeniable," he said.

In this context, the geneticist, who defines himself as "agnostic, practically atheist" and "Taoist," said that "an attempt to make human life begin at a later time is arbitrary and not supported by scientific argumentation."

For the Italian geneticist, the way to obtain embryonic stem cells is "from spontaneous abortions."

"I have said 'spontaneous,'" he stressed. In fact, "the 44 abortions that occur weekly just in the province of Milan would suffice for the therapy of tens of thousands of sick persons," he concluded.