Wellcome Trust response to the report of the House of Lords Select Committee on Stem Cell Research
27 February 2002
"The Lords deserve congratulations on their clarity of thought on an issue that others have attempted to hijack with inflammatory and misleading interventions. It is crucial that stem cell research using both adult and early embryo stem cells is allowed to progress.
"Scientists can now get on with finding treatments for life-threatening diseases, such as Parkinson's, diabetes, and cancer, thanks to this common sense report.
"The Lords have endorsed UK research into the therapeutic potential of stem cells, which is already creating a precedent for the rest of the world."
Dr Mike Dexter, Director, the Wellcome Trust
It was from first hand experience that that Dr Dexter was able to explain the opportunities and limitations associated with using adult stem cells to the House of Lords Select Committee on Stem Cell Research. He noted that the limitations of using adult cells are numerous, adding that most of these shortcomings would only be overcome by research using embryonic stem cells.
Dr Dexter spent most of his academic career researching the benefits of adult stem cells. In his evidence to the Lords, he said that his team in Manchester was the first to develop a technique to grow blood stem cells in the test tube and use them to treat children with leukaemia, as part of a cure for the disease. He also headed the first gene therapy trial using cultured adult stem cells to treat children with Hurler's Syndrome, a devastating disease that can cause death by the age of 10.
Dr Dexter cautioned that stem cell treatments will not be immediate and that we must be careful not to exaggerate the possibilities. He considers it will take 15 years or more until the use of stem cell therapies is widespread. Perhaps in two to five years we might see them being used on a small scale in the treatment of diabetes, liver disease and some neurological problems.
Dr Dexter considers it necessary to balance the social, moral and ethical considerations regarding embryonic stem cell research against medical need and potential benefits, in order to make a fully informed decision. He said that the right to a better quality of life for those suffering from serious illness tipped the scales in favour of supporting the use of human embryos for this purpose, providing it is conducted within a sound regulatory framework.
Shaun Griffin, Wellcome Trust Media Office: 07710 307059; 020 7611 8612; firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to Editors
The Wellcome Trust is an independent research-funding charity, established under the will of Sir Henry Wellcome in 1936. It is funded from a private endowment which is managed with long-term stability and growth in mind. The Trust's mission is to promote research with the aim of improving human and animal health