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Thread: Stem cell bank 'to get go-ahead'

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    Stem cell bank 'to get go-ahead'

    Stem cell bank 'to get go-ahead'


    Human embryo research is highly controversial

    Plans for Britain's first stem cell bank are expected to be given the final go-ahead next month.
    The bank, run by the Medical Research Council (MRC), would collect stem cells from human embryos for medical research.



    The majority of people will see that it would actually be wrong not to use this ability that nature has given us of providing cells for transplants

    Suzi Leather, HFEA
    Supporters say the resource could one day be used to treat conditions like Alzheimer's and diabetes.

    But there are fears that couples undergoing IVF treatment could be put under pressure to donate spare embryos to the bank.

    The London Fertility Clinic, says they are careful not to influence patients' decisions and they want that attitude enforced.

    Ian Craft said: "I think patients have been pressurised to give up embryos in the past, and I've always been very much against it," he told the BBC.

    "Infertile couples come to be made pregnant, they don't come to think about research and science."

    The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which regulates embryo research, says guidelines are in place to protect patients.

    "The HFEA has laid down very strict guidelines which would mean that it would be absolutely wrong for any clinics to put pressure on patients to donate embryos for any use that they weren't giving full consent for," HFEA head Suzi Leather told the BBC.

    As the plans for the stem cell bank were unveiled, a British research team at King's College told the BBC that it had become the first in the UK to grow human embryonic stem cells.

    Dr Stephen Minger told BBC Two's Newsnight programme the cells had been growing for three weeks but that it was early days in the research.

    "What we hope to be able to do is to use these cells to generate cells that have therapeutic potential, for instance, cells that make particular types of neurons that can be used for repairing the nervous system or for regenerating the damaged heart tissue," he said.

    'Master cells'

    The idea of a stem cell bank was floated by the influential UK body of scientists, the Royal Society, in a report in March 2000.

    It said the government should consider the feasibility of setting up frozen banks of stem cells - the "master" cells in the body that have the potential to develop into many different specialised cells.

    The cell bank was later recommended by a panel chaired by the Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson.

    Parliament has agreed that embryos up to the age of 14 days could be used to get embryonic stem cells.

    Many scientists believe that by controlling the development of such cells they will be able to grow in the lab a range of tissues that could then be used to restore or replace diseased areas of the body.

    But the move is opposed by anti-abortion campaigners who argue that equally effective treatments could be developed without using embryos.

    Public debate

    Ms Leather says she hopes there will be a well-informed and widespread debate on the use of stem cells.

    "I think the majority of people will see that it would actually be wrong not to use this ability that nature has given us of providing cells for transplants and potentially treating or relieving human suffering," she said.

    The MRC is expected to announce the creation of the stem cell bank on 11 September.

    It is holding a conference - Stem cells: prospects for research and therapy - on that day.

    A spokesperson for the MRC told BBC News Online it was not in a position to make an announcement about a final decision, although the stem cell bank would be discussed at the conference.

    Although the plans have been agreed in principle nothing can be done without ministerial approval, which has not yet been received.


    WATCH/LISTEN

    ON THIS STORY

    The BBC's Pallab Ghosh
    "Potentially extremely exciting developments in medical treatment"


    The BBC's Sangita Myska
    "Government scientists hope that couples will be enthusiastic about this"


    Fertility expert Lord Winston
    "This is a major step forward"




    See also:


    28 Aug 02 | Science/Nature
    Q&A: Stem cell banks

    01 Mar 00 | Science/Nature
    Call for stem cell banks

    20 Jun 02 | Health
    Transplant hope for Parkinson's patients

    13 Mar 02 | Science/Nature
    Stem cell research doubts

    27 Feb 02 | Science/Nature
    Lords back cloning research

    27 Feb 02 | Science/Nature
    Researchers welcome cloning decision

    Internet links:


    Royal Society
    Chief Medical Officer's expert group on therapeutic cloning
    Medical Research Council

    The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

    Top Science/Nature stories now:


    UK 'running out of gas'

    Out of the mouth of babes

    Alert sounds for seed banks

    'N Sync singer confirms space trip

    Students in space bugs study

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    Premature birth of Earth


    Links to more Science/Nature stories are at the foot of the page.




    E-mail this story to a friend

    ==============================
    " They say "Seeing is believing" but the true question is: What do you believe you've seen? Throughout history, the search for faith has lead man to look to the stars and the heavens for answers, but only by looking into ourselves may we truly find it." Outer Limits(Josh)



  2. #2
    Senior Member Max's Avatar
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    Q&A: Stem cell banks

    Q&A: Stem cell banks


    The use of embryonic stem cells raises ethical concerns

    UK government scientists are expected to be given the go-ahead for a project to allow stem cells from thousands of human embryos to be used for medical research.
    BBC News Online looks at the pros and cons of setting up a stem cell bank.

    What are stem cells?

    Stem cells are the "master cells" of the human body that have the potential to develop into almost every other type of cell.

    They can be grown in the lab, and, in theory, could be made to develop into the likes of nerve tissue, blood, heart muscle and even brain cells.

    Scientists believe stem cells might one day provide us with a ready supply of tissue for transplant operations.



    At the moment, embryos that are not used are just discarded

    Medical Research Council
    Cells would be implanted into our bodies to repair the damage caused by illnesses like heart disease.

    Ultimately, however, it may be possible to persuade stem cells to grow into complete organs.

    Where do they come from?

    True stem cells come from human embryos, but they can also be found in adult tissue.

    It is not clear whether so-called adult stem cells have the flexibility of embryonic cells to grow into other cell types.

    Research has shown for example that adult bone marrow cells can become liver cells.

    But scientists believe we may need embryonic stem cells to get the full range of cell types for medical treatments.

    Why have a stem cell bank?

    The bank would collect thousands of cells from human embryos and adults for research into medical conditions including Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

    Couples who have undergone fertility treatment would be asked to donate any spare embryos for harnessing stem cells.

    "At the moment, embryos that are not used are just discarded," says the Medical Research Council (MRC), which is behind the plans.

    It says embryos would only be used in the bank with the full informed consent of the couples involved.

    Under British law, scientists are allowed to conduct research on embryos up to 14 days old.

    At this stage an embryo is a small bundle of cells about the size of a pin-head.

    What are the objections?

    The plans have been criticised by Pro-Life groups who object to the use of human embryos.

    They argue that the research is immoral and are strongly opposed to the idea of developing medical treatments from embryonic stem cells.

    Concern has also been raised that couples receiving infertility treatment may be put under pressure to donate spare embryos for medical research.

    The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, which regulates embryo research, says strict guidelines are in place at clinics to protect patients.

    What happens next?

    The bank must be given full ministerial approval, which is expected next month.

    It will be managed by the MRC, under tender.

    The bank will be operated without any vested commercial interest, says the MRC.

    A number of charities are believed to have expressed an interest in running it.

    See also:


    28 Aug 02 | Science/Nature
    Stem cell bank 'to get go-ahead'

    18 Dec 01 | Europe
    Stem cell ethics under microscope

    01 Mar 00 | Science/Nature
    Call for stem cell banks

    Internet links:


    Chief Medical Officer's Expert Advisory Group on Therapeutic Cloning
    The Royal Society
    Medical Research Council
    HFEA

    The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

    Top Science/Nature stories now:


    UK 'running out of gas'

    Out of the mouth of babes

    Alert sounds for seed banks

    'N Sync singer confirms space trip

    Students in space bugs study

    Rats give clue to male sex problems

    University scientists in black hole hunt

    Premature birth of Earth


    Links to more Science/Nature stories are at the foot of the page.




    E-mail this story to a friend

    ==============================
    " They say "Seeing is believing" but the true question is: What do you believe you've seen? Throughout history, the search for faith has lead man to look to the stars and the heavens for answers, but only by looking into ourselves may we truly find it." Outer Limits(Josh)



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