Moral objections over stem cell research have focused on the use of embryonic stem cells. Scientists believe they hold promise because they can transform themselves, with the right prodding, into virtually any kind of tissue. But the Catholic church and religious conservatives object to such research because it involves destroying embryos. Adult stem cells, however, are less controversial, but up until recently were not thought to hold the same potential for medical advancement as embryonic stem cells.
Intestinal stem cells have potential because they appear to be different from many other kinds of adult stem cells because they are programmed to generate a variety of cells, said Dr. Alessio Fasano, a professor of pediatrics and physiology who is coordinating the partnership.