World's first stem cell bank opens in London

A world's first bank for embryonic stem cells – research into which could lead to improved treatment for currently incurable diseases – has been opened by Health Minister Lord Warner in London today.

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, were deposited in the UK Stem Cell Bank today.

Scientists believe that stem cells could offer a potentially revolutionary way to repair diseased and damaged body tissues, replacing them with healthy new cells. Conditions such as diabetes, cancer, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's could all see advances in treatment from stem cell research.

Funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), and hosted by the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control (NIBSC), the bank it is responsible for "storing, characterising and supplying ethically approved, quality controlled stem cell lines for research", and ultimately for treatment.

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 that the bank would ensure that researchers could "explore the enormous potential of this exciting science for the future benefit of patients".

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.


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