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European and international scientists applaud Italian stem cell shift

In an open letter to President Romano Prodi and Ministers of the Italian Republic, representatives from leading stem cell organizations endorse the recent decision of the Italian Minister of Research and Industry, Fabio Mussi, to remove Italy’s signature from a "declaration of ethics" objecting to the use of European Union funds for human embryonic stem cell research.

The letter, signed by Gordon Keller, President, International Society for Stem Cell Research and Austin Smith, Coordinator, European Consortium for Stem Cell Research, recognises the significance of Minister Mussi's decision for scientific research and medical advancement in the European Union. The full text of the letter appears below:

"The International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) has become aware of the recent decision of the Italian Minister of Research and University, Fabio Mussi, to withdraw Italy’s signature from an ‘Ethical Declaration against Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research’, which was placed by the previous government in the European Union (*).

While having no direct impact on the current Italian legislation (**), this decision removes a significant barrier to the freedom of scientific research and medical advancement in the European Union.

We as a society, endorse Minister Mussi and the stance of the new Government of Italy on this issue. The withdrawal from the Ethical Declaration is consistent with the opinion of the European Group on Ethics (***) and is of great importance for citizens in those European countries that have come to democratic decisions that research on human embryonic stem cells is necessary, legitimate and ethical.

Europe has made major historical contributions in the field of fundamental stem cell research and is well-positioned to translate this knowledge to the clinic and develop future treatments for human disease. Italy is no longer blocking scientific progress for universal benefit. We applaud this honourable decision that takes into full consideration pluralism of ideas and principles. On the other hand, reversal of the decision made by the Minister would have a negative effect on the whole European and International scientific community, slowing research progress towards regenerative therapies."

Kate Doherty | alfa
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