Stem Cells: A Panacea for Our Future?
A discussion with Professor Austin Smith, 12th May 2010
Basic research into stem cells has helped to answer many questions about human development. A more complete understanding of the genetic and molecular controls of these processes may yield information about diseases and ageing, and suggest potential diagnostic and therapeutic strategies. Developing an understanding of how to predictably control cell proliferation and differentiation is a prerequisite to the development of effective therapies. How far have we come and how much have we yet to learn?
Prof. Austin Smith introduced the topic, which was followed by a discussion of some of the issues around contemporary stem cell research. Some of the questions addressed included:
• How well do we need to understand Stem Cell biology before moving out of the laboratory and into the clinic?
• Will Stem Cells ever be the basis of targeted therapies, or is this a pipe dream?
• How are variable global policies and legislation on Stem Cell research effecting collaboration and competition?
• Does the clash between scientific interests and ethical considerations present a barrier to progress or an impetus for innovation?
Austin Smith is Director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Stem Cell Research at Cambridge University. His pioneering work in the field of stem cells has focused on understanding and defining pluripotency and self-renewal.