Centre for Life opens with the UK’s first two human embryonic stem cell lines

The UK’s first two human embryonic stem cell lines, developed separately by researchers at King’s College London and the Centre for Life in Newcastle, are to be deposited in the UK Stem Cell Bank. The deposit coincides with the official opening of the Bank by Health Minister, Lord Warner, today (Wednesday 19 May 2004).

Stem cells offer a potentially revolutionary way to repair diseased and damaged body tissues, replacing them with healthy new cells. But a huge amount of research is needed to understand exactly how they work and how their potential can be harnessed for treatments for conditions such as diabetes, cancer, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

The Bank, the world’s first of its type, is funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). Hosted by the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control (NIBSC), it is responsible for storing, characterising and supplying ethically approved, quality controlled stem cell lines for research and ultimately for treatment.

The cell lines are derived from stem cells which continue to multiply and reproduce themselves indefinitely. The Bank will hold stem cell lines derived originally from embryonic, fetal and adult tissues. Applications to deposit stem cell lines in the Bank or to access banked stem cell lines must be reviewed and authorised by a high level Steering Committee chaired by Lord Naren Patel.

Lord Warner, Health Minister, said: “This Bank is the first of its kind in the world and confirms the UK's position as a leader in stem cell research. This potentially revolutionary research could benefit thousands of patients whose lives are blighted by devastating diseases such as Parkinson's, stroke and Alzheimer's. Today's launch is further evidence of the government's commitment to strengthen research and development so that NHS patients can reap the full benefits of the latest advances in science.”

Professor Colin Blakemore, Chief Executive of the MRC, said: “Stem cell research offers real promise for the treatment of currently incurable diseases. The Bank will ensure that researchers can explore the enormous potential of this exciting science for the future benefit of patients.”

Professor Julia Goodfellow, Chief Executive of the BBSRC, said: “Stem cell therapy will remain a dream unless we can understand and control the processes that switch these cells into specialised types such as brain or pancreas cells. The Bank will help us to achieve this by providing isolated and well-characterised cells for research.” http://www.mrc.ac.uk

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