World’s leading experts to attend International Human Embryonic Stem Cell Symposium

The Centre for Stem Cell Biology (CSCB) at the University of Sheffield is welcoming some of the world’s leading experts to its International Human Embryonic Stem Cell Symposium on Friday 9 July 2004.

The CSCB is a world-leading centre for stem cell research, and has produced two of the UK’s six embryonic stem cell lines. The symposium will allow around 200 scientists to benefit from the experience of the world’s leading researchers in this area.

Embryonic stem cell technology is a new area of science and has the potential to offer cures for degenerative conditions such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease. Researchers at the University of Sheffield are working on developing stem cell technology to cure type 1 diabetes, by developing pancreas islet cells, which are responsible for producing insulin. Patients with this disease lose their islet cells to autoimmune disease. It is hoped that islet cells produced from embryonic stem cells can be used for cell replacement therapies.

Earlier in the week the CSCB hosted the second Practical Training Course in handling human embryonic stem cells. That course, conducted in conjunction with the UK Stem Cell Bank, and sponsored by the MRC, BBSRC and the Department of Health, aimed to introduce a group of 16 researchers to the techniques required for working with these cells.

Professor Peter Andrews of the University of Sheffield is also co-ordinating the International Stem Cell Initiative, under the auspices of the International Stem Cell Forum, an organisation of the medical funding agencies from 14 countries worldwide. The Initiative will seek to evaluate all of the embryonic stem cell lines in the world (over 70 in total) in order to develop a worldwide standard fo ridentifying and defining these important cells.

Professor Harry Moore, who, with Professor Andrews, co-directs the Centre for Stem Cell Biology at the University of Sheffield explains, “Embryonic stem cells are special because they are able to differentiate and potentially become any cell in the body. The science is fairly new but harnessing their abilities could allow us to develop therapies for a wide range of degenerative conditions.

“The Centre for Stem Cell Biology is focussing on producing embryonic stem cells that have been produced under strict regulations, ensuring that they could be used for clinical cell therapy in the future. The symposium will allow us to discuss with other researchers the current state of knowledge of these amazing cells and provide a stepping stone towards their eventual use in human healthcare.”

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