Great potential for new success in Swedish stem cell research

Swedish stem cell researchers are in a good position to become even more successful than in recent years. This can be achieved by improving the collaboration between research groups, and by increasing the number of researchers in the field through, for example, the introduction of “come-home” grants for those who have been abroad. Equally important would be economic commitment to basic research on stem cells, and the creation of regulations for emergent commercial aspects so that researchers can maintain free access to material and research results. All this is established in the first survey of Swedish stem cell research.

While Swedish stem cell research is partly in the international forefront already, it yields a smaller number of publications than what would correspond to Swedish researchers’ proportion of biomedical research as a whole. The reason appears to be that it concerns a relatively new field. On the other hand, Swedish researchers have produced works of good quality which have attracted great attention internationally.

Three centres and a new network
At least one hundred researchers with doctoral degrees are pursuing part- or full-time studies in the area of stem cells, distributed over more than thirty research groups. The most intensive research activity occurs at the three centres which have been built up at the Karolinska Institute and the universities in Göteborg and Lund. Special posts for researchers on stem cells have also been provided there. A national network for stem cell research is under development as well – the Swedish Consortium for Stem Cell Biology and Cell Therapy, SWESTEM.

Difficulties of defining the field and resources
“The definition of what constitutes stem cell research is not yet unambiguous,” says Professor Lennart Enerbäck at Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Göteborg, who has carried out the survey along with Professor Jan Lindsten from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. Stem cell research is difficult to delimit as a unified area, since it contains issues that are also central to other contexts in cell and tumour biology. This, in turn, makes it hard to determine which researchers are conducting studies of stem cells and what resources are available for such research.

The investigation proposes:
-Increased funding of basic research
-Collaboration with researchers in other fields
-Increase the numbers of researchers through
A research school
Post-doctoral positions
Come-home” grants
-Review of rules for commercial interests

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