Brussels, 22 Oct 2004
Europe can lead the rest of the world in the field of stem cell research, given the present funding restrictions imposed on such activities in the US, believes Professor Sir George Radda, former chief executive of the UK Medical Research Council.
Sir George was speaking at a meeting organised by the UK research office in Brussels on 20 October, organised to present UK experiences in stem cell science and its regulation. He said that it is not just the UK that has expertise in this area, but countries from across the EU, from Scandinavia to the Czech Republic.
'Europe has a real opportunity to become the world leader in this area, given the restrictions currently imposed in the US, and it is important that the European Parliament in particular recognises this,' said Sir George, in a reference to some of the ethical objections to this type of research raised by MEPs.
He added that it is important for stem cell researchers to be realistic about the potential of their research: 'We need communication policies that make it clear that therapies are still a long way off, as it is counterproductive to oversell the technology. We must avoid the mistakes made in the area of gene therapy, where there was a huge amount of hype.'
Sir George, who was closely involved in the establishment of the world's first stem cell bank in the UK, revealed that ultimately he hopes to see tens of thousands of stem cell lines deposited in the bank. 'The dream is to have enough lines in order to immune match the population, rather than have to acquire cells from each individual, which is obviously very costly. It is thought that 5,000 to 10,000 lines would be enough to immune match up to 80 per cent of the population.'
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