JPIIMRI makes strides with ethical stem cell work


By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

Cellular Engineering Technologies (CET), a Coralville-based biotechnology company, and the John Paul II Medical Research Institute (JPIIMRI), an Iowa City-based nonprofit organization, were recently featured in Future Science Open Access for their adult stem cell research.

Founded by Catholic Alan Moy of Iowa City in 2000, CET and JPIIMRI endeavor to create alternatives to medical research and treatments that use embryonic stem cells. The Catholic Church teaches that each human being is to be respected as a person from the moment of conception and that his or her rights are to be recognized — including at the embryonic stage.

The organizations have been working to find ways to use adult stem cells to treat a variety of diseases in order to set a new industry paradigm and reduce demand for embryonic stem cell research and treatments. Adult stem cells are undifferentiated cells that multiply by cell division to replenish dying cells and regenerate damaged tissues. They can be harvested without destroying a human life, unlike embryonic stem cells.


The manuscript in Future Science Open Access detailed the organizations’ work with induced pluripotent stem cells (IPSC), which are adult stem cells that have been reprogrammed into embryonic-like stem cells. The technology offers solutions in advancing personalized medicine, drug discovery, gene therapy, bio-banking and protein manufacturing without taking human life in the process.

The IPSC technology also reduces transplantation risks typically associated with stem cell therapies. Prior technologies to create IPSC have required cancer-causing genes (oncogenes) to genetically reprogram adult cells into pluripotent stem cells, according to the manuscript. The new approach described in the manuscript uses additional chemicals that replace the need to use these specific oncogenes. This approach opens a pathway for creating safer IPSC-based cell therapies and satisfies an important regulatory pathway to bring regenerative medicine to treat many unmet medical needs that include neurodegenerative diseases, rare diseases, cancer and common chronic diseases.

Co-authors of the article included scientists from the University of Iowa, Western New England University and the University of Pittsburgh.
Moy said embryonic stem cell research and treatments affect not just the embryos, but potentially Catholic medical institutions as well. “The use of morally illicit cells poses a serious future threat to the financial stability of Catholic hospitals and these institutions’ abilities to maintain their Catholic identify unless ethical and equally capable biotechnologies are available.”

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