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Wednesday, 11 December, 2002, 22:50 GMT
China approves stem cell bank
Stem cells
China is trying to become a leader in biological research
The Chinese Government has approved the setting up of the country's first state-run stem cell bank, according to state media.

The Xinhua news agency said the bank would be built in Tianjin, close to the capital Beijing, and would aim to provide treatments for various diseases.

A stem cell transplant centre at the facility would eventually be able to provide transplants for 200 patients every year, the agency said.

BBC science correspondent Richard Black says this is the latest in a series of moves aimed at making China a world leader in the modern biological sciences.

Thousands of samples

According to Xinhua, the bank has already gathered 6,000 samples of human tissue.

However, experts say that similar banks in the United States typically have about 4.5m samples.

Nonetheless, when the Tianjin facility is completed in eight years' time, it will be the largest stem cell bank in Asia.

By its side there will be a medical centre designed to turn the concept of stem cell therapies into practice, providing treatments initially for several hundred people a year.

Growing Asian power

Our correspondent says it is the latest indication that east Asia, and China in particular, is growing in importance as a leader in the new sciences of genomics, cloning and stem cells.

  • The Chinese Genome Centre, established three years ago, played a central role in decoding the genetic structure of rice.
  • South Korean and Chinese scientists have been ahead of the world in creating animal-human hybrid cells.
  • And earlier this year, one of the creators of Dolly the sheep clone, Alan Coleman, moved from Britain to Singapore, citing a more favourable environment for his research.

Even as the Chinese announced their stem cell bank, Stanford University in the US was drawing criticism from religious groups for setting up a new research programme involving therapeutic cloning.

Our correspondent says such criticism is not as vocal in east Asia.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Richard Black
"It will be the largest stem cell bank in Asia"
See also:

28 Aug 02 | Science/Nature
28 Aug 02 | Science/Nature
18 Nov 02 | Science/Nature
11 Nov 02 | Science/Nature
29 Oct 02 | Health
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