Scholarships for stem-cell research

The NSW Government has named two new scholarships for stem-cell research in honour of Paul Brock, an adjunct professor at the University of Sydney and a leading figure in Australia's education community.

The Dr Paul Brock Scholarship will support PhD students in the relatively new area of research into stem cells generated from skin cells, known as induced pluripotent stem (iPS).

Pluripotent stem cells have the potential to develop into specialised cells that could be used as replacement cells and tissues to treat many diseases and conditions. They could also help us understand what causes birth defects and cancer, and change the way we develop and test drugs, according to NSW Minister for Science and Medical Research Verity Firth.

"When I was told that this PhD Scholarship was to be named after me, it quite blew me away," Dr Brock said. I am both very proud and very humbled by this decision made by Minister Verity Firth.

"I can only hope that it will eventually lead to a research breakthrough for Motor Neurone Disease, as well as for other currently incurable and inevitably fatal diseases."

Dr Brock AM, who suffers from motor neurone disease that has left him almost completely paralysed, is the Director of Learning and Development Research at the NSW Department of Education and Training, the author of numerous books and papers, and an adjunct professor in the Faculty of Education and Social Work at the University of Sydney.

He has been heavily involved in the development of English curricula at both state and national levels, and was a Director on the Board of the Australian Children's Television Foundation from 1993 to 1997.

He describes iPS research as "revolutionary", in that it does not involve embryonic stem cells (from "excess" early stage embryos in IVF programs) or donated human eggs (known as therapeutic cloning, or Somatic Cell Nucleic Transfer with the acronym SCNT).

"While research in the two forms (via IVF and SCNT) of embryonic stem cells will need to continue, the iPS research bypasses virtually all of the controversies associated with them. It is very exciting.

"Any or all of these three forms of stem cell research is or are highly unlikely to provide a cure for MND before this rotten disease finishes me off. Hopefully, however, there will be people in the next and subsequent generation who will be able to benefit from the Dr Paul Brock Scholarship." There are currently two NSW-based scholarships available - worth $25,000 per annum over three years.

"We expect the recipients will be from a university, medical research institute and/or possibly collaborating with a private entity," said Kerry Doyle, Executive Director, Office for Science and Medical Research.

"We will also work closely with a network of stem cell experts nationally and internationally to ensure that the highest quality of research is undertaken under this scholarship program."

There are about 1,400 people afflicted with MND in Australia. Every day one Australian dies of MND.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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