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Scientists support stem cell research

21 July 2003
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 217

Scientists representing 12 different countries have worked together to create a new organisation which will advance scientific collaboration on stem cell research. The aim of the International Stem Cell Forum (ISCF) is to coordinate, generate and share new insights into fundamental cell biology and developmental processes, develop cell-based treatments to repair or replace human tissues damaged through injuries and treatments for a wide range of serious and currently incurable degenerative diseases that affect millions of people world-wide. It will encourage resources and data to be shared so that results can be compared 'between countries, boundaries and disciplines'.

The ISCF, which has evolved out of a nine-nation international discussion group on stem cells set up in January this year, was formally confirmed at a meeting of the UK's Medical Research Council (MRC) in London on 11 July 2003. As well as the MRC, the countries and agencies involved include the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, US National Institutes of Health, the National University of Singapore, US Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia, the Academy of Finland, the Scientific Council for Medicine of the Swedish Research Council and representatives from The Netherlands, France, Germany and Japan.

The ISCF project will invite the international researchers to study new and existing stem cell lines, so that their characteristics can be 'benchmarked' for their use according to national legislative provisions. The project will be coordinated by Professor Peter Andrews at the University of Sheffield's Centre for Stem Cell Biology.

Professor Sir George Radda, Chief Executive of the MRC and chair of the ISCF, 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'.

Meanwhile, further scientific support for embryonic stem cell (ES cell) research has been sown by the editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), Dr Jeffrey Drazen. In the latest editorial, he has pledged that the journal will 'aggressively seek out and publish' research on ES cells, with the aim to improve public understanding and lessen controversy and to further progress in the field. The NEJM, said Drazen, will play its part 'by seeking out highly meritorious manuscripts that describe research using embryonic stem cells. When treatments derived from this technology emerge, we will publish the papers that describe them'. He also commented, with reference to George Bush's stem cell policy, 'we want to be sure that legislative myopia does not blur scientific insight', adding that 'physicians and scientists in the US should be at the centre of the action, not on the sidelines'.

12 nations unite to advance stem-cell research
The Times Higher Educational Supplement |  18 July 2003
Influential journal plans push to publish more stem-cell studies
The Boston Globe |  17 July 2003
Legislative Myopia on Stem Cells
New England Journal of Medicine |  17 July 2003
Stem cell forum launched
The Scientist |  17 July 2003
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