Angels and Demons: Part II
In his 2000 best-selling novel, Dan Brown tells the fictional story of an apparent plot by the Illuminati, the self-proclaimed “enlightened ones,” against the Vatican. Apparently life truly does sometimes imitate art.
On April 11 to 13, the Vatican hosted “Regenerative Medicine: A Fundamental Shift In Science and Culture,” the second International Vatican Adult Stem Cell Conference. The stated goals of the conference were “To discuss and understand the importance of scientific advancements in the paradigm shift toward regenerative medicine, with a particular focus on adult stem cell therapies and the interconnections between research, faith, ethics and culture…[and to] foster an open dialogue amongst researchers, physicians, philanthropists, faith leaders and policy-makers in order to help identify clear, unmet medical needs throughout the world that can be addressed through the development of cellular therapies that will reduce human suffering.” The schedule (http://adultstemcellconference.org/the-conference/conference-schedule/) consisted of an array of topics, including presentation of clinical trial results, patients discussing what its like to live with a chronic illness, seminars on the challenges in manufacturing cells for human use, and discussions of the political, ethical, cultural, and societal aspects of stem cell research. The range of clinical topics spanned diabetes mellitus, multiple sclerosis, autoimmune disease, heart disease, traumatic brain injury, aging, wound healing, and cancer. In some cases, patients who had participated in clinical trials were present and discussed their experience.
This was not, strictly speaking, a scientific meeting, although there was a robust presence of scientists, including a Nobel laureate; the mean h-index of the scientists who spoke at the meeting was 54. The meeting, however, was designed to be much broader in scope and included …