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Chairman Of Board At Holy Cross Also Is Chancellor At School Using Embryos

The chairman of the Board of Trustees at a major Catholic college in Massachusetts is also chancellor for a medical school that dabbles with human embryonic stem cells.

The chancellor, Dr. Michael F. Collins, was named chairman in 2002 and will head the board at the College of Holy Cross until 2008. It is his full-time job as interim chancellor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, however, that has drawn notice. That occurred last May.

As an assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts acknowledges candidly, "We employ a variety of embryological, cellular, molecular and genetic approaches. These include lineage analysis, chimeras, and embryo culture as well as time-lapse imaging, tissue specific knockouts, wholemount in situ hybridization and immunofluorescence.  We also utilize embryonic stem cells for gene targeting."

The use of human embryos for stem-cell research has been condemned by the Vatican as tantamount to abortion, resulting as it does in the death of a human, albeit in the earliest stages.

Those involved in such research face excommunication from the Catholic Church, said the Vaticanís chief family official, Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, head of the Pontifical Council for the Family, in an interview in Italy's leading Catholic magazine, Famiglia Cristiana, a year ago.

"Two papers published by University of Massachusetts Medical School Department of Cell Biology and Cancer Center investigators report striking changes in control of growth in human embryonic stem cells," noted a scientific website in 2006. "The studies were carried out on a National Institutes of Health funded grant using two of the six federal government approved human embryonic stem cell lines."

While "approved" human embryonic stem cells do not come from clones but rather embryos already in existence, they remain a sharp point of moral contention -- derived as they are from the leftovers of  in-vitro fertilization. "Chimeras" are embryos that contain both human and animal genes.

On September 6 it was announced that plans for a $235 million science facility and an embryonic stem cell research bank at the medical school had "passed an initial funding hurdle yesterday as the finance committee of the board of trustees included the projects in a five-year capital plan for the university system," according to the Worcester Telegram and Gazette.

"Dr. Michael F. Collins, the interim chancellor of the medical school and senior vice president for health sciences for the university, recommended last month that the new science building be included in the five-year plan, even though plans for the research facilities are still evolving," reported the newspaper. "He said while the capital projects plan must still be approved by the full board of trustees, he is pleased to see it get initial approval by the committee. He said he hopes the life sciences research facilities can be developed quickly. 'For me, itís very exciting. We are at a moment where there is tremendous momentum and at an intersection where we have a very far-sighted governor who understands the importance of investing in the life sciences, and a school poised to take action,' Mr. Collins said."

Collins, a Catholic and alumnus of Holy Cross, has been actively involved in numerous professional and civic organizations, states a biography, serving as chair of the board of the Catholic Health Association of the United States, an organization that represents over 1,200 U.S. Catholic health care institutions.

According to a press release, Dr. Collins served as president and chief executive officer of Caritas Christi Health Care System from 1994 to 2004. Under Dr. Collinsí leadership, Caritas Christi became the second-largest healthcare system in New England, generating more than $1.1 billion in annual revenues from six acute care hospitals, physician group practices, several extended care facilities and other healthcare entities, all located in eastern Massachusetts. From 1994 to 2001, Dr. Collins served as president of St. Elizabethís Medical Center in Brighton, a university academic medical center affiliated with Tufts University School of Medicine.

10/2/07

[resources: Tower of Light]

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