Agreement reached on an international human stem cell project

An international project to co-ordinate human stem cell research across the globe was agreed at a 12-country* International Stem Cell Forum meeting chaired by the Medical Research Council (MRC) on Friday 11 July.

Stem cell therapy is a potentially revolutionary way to repair diseased and damaged body tissues with healthy new cells. But a huge amount of research is needed to understand how stem cells work and how their potential could be harnessed to treat conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and diabetes.

The project will invite researchers in international laboratories to examine new and existing stem cell ‘lines’**, using standardised tools and procedures in order to set international scientific benchmarks on the cell line characteristics in accordance with the respective national legislation. The project will be co-ordinated by Professor Peter Andrews at the Centre for Stem Cell Biology at the University of Sheffield, working with scientific representatives from the Forum countries. The data generated will be posted in a new registry of stem cell lines which will be made available on an international web site being developed for the Forum.

Professor Sir George Radda, Chief Executive of the MRC, chairs the International Forum. He said: “We’re delighted to be one of the research agencies involved in this project. International co-ordination will accelerate progress in this cutting edge area of research, maximising health benefits for the global public.”

The International Stem Cell Forum has been established to encourage resources and data to be shared and to identify research and training opportunities for stem cell researchers. Data sharing will allow results to be compared between countries and stimulate research collaborations across nations, boundaries and disciplines.

Cooperative planning will prevent duplication of research and enable key research gaps to be identified and addressed. In addition to the characterising lines initiative being co-ordinated by the UK, international practice on ethical and patenting issues will be collated by Canada and Australia respectively and posted on the international web site.

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