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Manchester to open embryonic stem-cell research centre


Manchester is set to become a major contributor to stem-cell research with the opening of one of the most hi-tech facilities in the UK.

The North West Embryonic Stem Cell Centre, based at St Mary’s Hospital and The University of Manchester, will develop new treatments for diseases such as cancer and diabetes.

The £2 million centre will produce embryonic stem cells of high enough quality for human transplantation – one of only a handful of laboratories in the UK able to do this.

Dr Daniel Brison, a consultant embryologist at St Mary’s and co-director of the stem-cell centre, said the new facility would place Manchester at the cutting edge of developments in embryonic stem-cell research.

“This is a major research grant into the NHS to support the Government’s interest in developing human stem cells for the benefit of patients.

“The centre’s laboratories will be some of the best equipped in the country producing stem-cell lines to Good Manufacturing Practice standards so they can be used for transplantation at a future date.”

The North West Embryonic Stem Cell Centre will ask patients on IVF programmes to donate eggs and embryos that would ordinarily be discarded and develop them in the lab under licence from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority.

Infertile couples will be among those to benefit from the new research centre as knowledge gained about embryonic development will assist the hospital’s IVF programme.

The centre, which is due to open in June 2006, is a joint project between The University of Manchester, the Central Manchester and Manchester Children’s University Hospital NHS Trust, the Paterson Institute for Cancer Research and The University of Liverpool.

Co-director Dr Sue Kimber, from The University of Manchester’s Faculty of Life Sciences, said: “We aim to build on the strong relationship between the Trust and the University to enable us to deliver state-of-the-art medicines for treatment of a wide range of diseases.”

Scientists believe that stem cells – master cells that have the potential to turn into any kind of human tissue – could be used to replace diseased cells in patients suffering from currently incurable diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and cancer.

Professor Peter Stern, in The University of Manchester’s Paterson Institute for Cancer Research based at Christie Hospital, will be focussing on the use of embryonic stem cells in the fight against cancer.

He said: “Cancer cells have properties that are similar to those seen in embryonic cells during development except, with cancer, the cells are maliciously activated.

“We will be investigating such shared properties between embryonic stem cells and cancer cells to identify targets where it is possible to develop cancer vaccines.”

A further £1.46 million grant has been awarded to the University to establish a UK Centre for Tissue Regeneration, which will be based adjacent to the stem-cell labs in the new Core Technology Facility on Grafton Street.

Professor Cay Kielty, director of the new tissue-regeneration centre, said: “The award will support the establishment of a tissue-regeneration ‘clean laboratory’ to Good Manufacturing Practice standards.

“The lab will regenerate skin, nerves, cartilage and blood vessels using living cells, including stem cells, under quality-control, sterile conditions for future use in human tissue repair.”

Aeron Haworth | alfa
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