Wednesday, October 19, 2005

International stem cell bank open

A bank that will create and supply new lines of embryonic stem cells for research around the world has been opened in Seoul, South Korea.

The project is being led by cloning expert Dr Woo Suk Hwang, who has pioneered the development of stem cells tailored to individual patients.

It will serve as the main centre for an international consortium, including the US and the UK.

Critics say using human embryos in research is unnecessary and unethical.

But proponents argue that stem cells taken from embryos offer the best hope of new treatments for a range of diseases and injuries.
The new bank is expected the help scientists from countries like the US get round government restrictions on stem cell research.
The Bush administration bans federal funding for research on all but a handful of old embryonic stem-cell lines.

The first branches of the stem cell bank will open in the UK and the US.
Professor Christopher Higgins, director of the Medical Research Council Clinical Sciences Centre, welcomed the new bank.

He said: "It is a very postive step forward. If we are going to make use of embryonic stem cells for therapeutic purposes it is very important that there is access for all the researchers who need them."

Professor Higgins said embryonic stem cell therapy offered the prospect of treatments and cures for many non-infectious diseases caused by the the loss of specific types of cell in the body.

However, Matthew O'Gorman, from the charity Life UK, told the BBC News website funding should be switched to alternative forms of stem cell research, which were more ethical, and which had already produced promising results.

He said: "Embryonic stem cell research is about creating tiny human beings to plunder them for cells to serve the needs of others, and then discarding them."

Happily, these cell lines are so well mapped and documented that it will be easy to trace the lineage of an ultimate cure for, say, Parkinson's or Alzheimer's Disease. That will make it easy for Mr. O'Gorman, his loved ones and similarly high-minded folks to refuse any treatments derived from this nefarious, off-shore operation.


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