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Stem Cell Research Grant Awarded by Archdiocese

Catholic News Agency, December 22, 2007

A team of researchers investigating the potential of adult stem cells has been awarded with a $100,000 grant by the Archdiocese of Sydney announced Cardinal George Pell.

The potential for stem cells derived from human dental pulp to transform into neuron cells will be investigated by the researchers who are based in Adelaide. The cells could be used to treat stroke victims if they can be effectively transformed.

Dr. Simon Koblar of the Australian Research Council Center for the Molecular Genetics of Development at the University of Adelaide and Associate Professor Stan Gronthos of the Hanson Institute led the research team. Instrumental in advancing their studies, was PhD. student Dr. Agnieszka Arthur, whom both the researchers praised. Dr. Arthur is doing postdoctoral work at the Hanson Institute and is a co-investigator of the grant.

“The project of Associate Professor Gronthos and Dr. Koblar brings new ideas and new thinking to adult stem cell research, and to the search for new treatments for people who have had a stroke,” Cardinal Pell said.

“Their research will initiate and foster a new collaboration between researchers in this area, and I am particularly pleased that the grant from the Archdiocese of Sydney will make a significant contribution to ensuring that their research project goes ahead,” the cardinal continued.

“This is exactly the sort of ethical, innovative and life-enhancing research that the grant was established to promote, and I am delighted that Associate Professor Gronthos and Dr. Koblar will join the other distinguished winners of our previous grants in furthering this work.”

This year's grant received ten applications. Professors with expertise either in law, medical research or medical ethics made up a panel which evaluated the applications by an independent selection. The panel was also refereed by two individuals who assisted in the application evaluations.

The panel was headed by Dr. Bernadette Tobin, Director of the Plunkett Centre for Ethics at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney. High standards of scientific evidence were maintained by all submissions. Tobin went on to elaborate on the selection process:

“One of the referees judged that Associate Professor Gronthos and Dr. Koblar’s innovative research would be highly likely to produce important new knowledge. And with new knowledge comes the hope of new treatments and therapies,” she said.

“In addition to this, Associate Professor Gronthos and Dr. Koblar lead an established research team with a very good publication record in the area of adult stem cell research,” Dr. Tobin continued.

Three different kinds of stem cell research have been funded by the Archdiocese of Sydney’s grant. To regenerate skin for catastrophic burn victims, an investigation was conducted using skin-derived stem cells. This study was awarded the grant in 2005. For use in the treatment of Parkinson's disease, an investigation into the therapeutic potential of adult stem cells derived from the nose was funded in 2003.


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