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Last Updated: Friday, 2 December 2005, 02:33 GMT
Experts plead for stem cell cash
Embryonic stem cells
The researchers are looking at how stem cells develop
Leading UK stem cell scientists have called on the government to invest at least 350m in research by 2016.

The report is from the UK Stem Cell Initiative, set up in this year's Budget charged with setting out a 10-year vision for the field.

The government said it accepted the report's recommendations, and pledged an extra 50m funding up to 2007.

Meanwhile, UK scientists outlined work which may allow embryonic stem cells to be developed without animal products.

They [stem cells] have the potential to help millions of people and could lead to new treatments for serious diseases for which there is currently no cure
Health Minister Jane Kennedy

Stem cells are the body's master cells, with the ability to become many different adult tissues.

In his report calling for more emphasis on stem cell research, Sir John Pattison said: "The ultimate health and wealth gains the UK will enjoy are directly proportional to the additional investment we are proposing."

He said the UK should spend at least an extra 350m over the next decade on stem cell research if it wished to maintain its "international leadership in this area".

"It is vital that we maintain and increase the level of public funding", he said.

The government announced an additional 50m spending on stem cell science over the next two years, doubling the amount already committed.

It welcomed the Stem Cell Initiative report, without making specific long-term funding pledges.

Health Minister Jane Kennedy said the long-term commitment to stem cells should be continued.

"They have the potential to help millions of people and could lead to new treatments for serious diseases for which there is currently no cure."

Public private partnership

Chancellor Gordon Brown announced a new public-private partnership to look at drug discovery and development - one of the main recommendations in the Stem Cell Initiative report.

Colin Blakemore, chief executive of the Medical Research Council, who was part of the UK SCI panel said: "The MRC is increasing the resources it's putting into stem cell research.

"We want to promote the rapid development of treatments as soon as they are shown to be valuable and safe."

Professor Michael Whitaker, chairman of the Institute of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine Board, a joint University of Newcastle and the University of Durham body, also welcomed the report.

"It is clear that a sustained programme of funding over several years is crucial if the UK is to maintain its position as world leader in this pioneering area of science," he said.

UK scientists also outlined work which may allow embryonic stem cells to be developed without animal products.

Currently, cells from mice are used - but there are concerns that using material from animals introduces a potentially "unstable" element.

There are also fears having animal material in any resulting tissue could trigger a human body to reject it, or could lead to illness.

Professor Roger Pederson and his team at the Cambridge Stem Cell Initiative examined the role of cell growth promoting factors in stem cell development.

Early research indicates certain growth factors play a role in deciding what specific cell type it will go on to become.

Mesoderm become cells such as muscle or blood cells.

Endoderm become internal tissues and ectoderm cells give rise to body parts such as the outer layer of skin, teeth and nails.

Professor Pederson, suggested their work could lead to stem cell lines "pure" enough to be used clinically within two years.

But studies looking at their practical uses would take much longer.




SEE ALSO:
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