International effort to answer stem cell questions
Stem cell research still poses more questions than answers. What are the potential applications of stem cell research? How can we grow stem cells and control their development? What are the ethical and legal implications of working with human stem cells? A gathering of almost 300 stem cell experts will address these questions at a conference in Milan next week, in the hope of moving closer to the answers required to take stem cell research to the clinic.
This international conference on Advances in Stem Cell Research, organised by the European Consortium for Stem Cell Research (EuroStemCell) and the University of Milano, and supported by Fondazione Cariplo, BioRep and Sapio Industrie, takes a well-rounded look at an often polarising topic. Scientists will compare their work on embryonic, foetal and adult stem cells. Clinical applications and ethical issues - both key considerations for stem cell researchers - will also be discussed.
Presentations from patient groups begin the conference with a reminder that stem cell research has the potential to offer treatment for serious and devastating diseases. Conference organiser, Professor Elena Cattaneo of the University of Milano, says "we are delighted to have representatives from the Duchenne Parent Project, the Luca Coscioni Association and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International at this conference and involved in our work. Stem cell research is seen by many as both abstract and ethically complex, but to sufferers from diseases like Parkinson's and muscular dystrophies it offers real hope.
On the back of a lively and successful Brussels workshop on the ethics of stem cell banking, this conference features a dedicated ethics session. Session Chair, Professor Göran Hermerén of Sweden's Lund University, says: "stem cell research raises many fundamental ethical questions. Open discussion of these questions at conferences like this can only be positive for policy, legislation, the public and for science itself.
The conference follows EuroStemCell's annual consortium meeting, in Bellagio, (Como, Italy), and marks the end of the EU-funded project's first year. Professor Austin Smith, Director of the University of Edinburgh's Institute for Stem Cell Research, heads the EuroStemCell consortium and comments: "only through collaboration will we advance research from the laboratory to the clinic. Our Europe-wide consortium allows us to compare scientific developments across different types of stem cells. The more we understand about these cells and their behaviour, the closer we come to developing their therapeutic potential to treat diseases.Full conference programme can be downloaded from http://www.eurostemcell.org/<br>EuroStemCell is a four-year Integrated Project of the European Union's Sixth Framework Programme. The 14 participants are from Scotland, England, Sweden, France, Denmark, Italy, Germany, and Switzerland. They comprise universities, research institutes and 3 biotechnology companies. EuroStemCell's mission is to build the scientific foundations required to take stem cell technology to the clinic.<br>Duchenne Parent Project,An organisation set up by parents of young people with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy to find a cure or treatment for this disease.<br>Luca Coscioni Association,An Italian association of doctors, physicians, researchers and patients, set up to advocate a change in Italian and international policies relating to freedom of scientific research.,http://www.lucacoscioni.it/cms/english/who.php <br>Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) ,Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) is the leading charitable funder and advocate of juvenile (type 1) diabetes research worldwide. <br>Stem Cell - unspecialized cell that has the ability to multiply without limit, and can also give rise to specialized cell types in the body.<br>Embryonic stem cell - Stem cells originating from the early embryo that have the potential to make most cell types both in the body and in the laboratory.<br>Foetal Stem Cell - Tissue stem cells originating from the foetus that have the potential to make a limited range of specialised cell types.<br>Adult stem cell - Tissue stem cells taken from adults (i.e. bone marrow, skin, muscle etc.). Tissue stem cells are undifferentiated cells found in a specialized tissue. They have the ability to make a limited range of specialised cell types.<br>Regenerative medicine - It is hoped that stem cells will be able to replace/replenish tissue that has been diseased or damaged. For example, in Parkinson's disease for which there is no effective current cure, it is hoped that stem cells will be able to replenish the damaged nerve cells.