Commentary and discussion on aspects of stem cell research

Remembering Paolo Bianco: Scientist at the forefront in the battle against Stamina

Paolo Bianco and Luca PaniPaolo Bianco and Luca PaniEvery time we were at dinner with Paolo Bianco we would end up having vivid discussions. It was normal to disagree with Paolo. But we can also say it was a pleasure. Not just because these disagreements did not affect our friendship (although sometimes they would suspend it for a few months), but for the fact that we shared the ethical value of scientific research and experimental methodology.

The scientist who urged us to never surrender

Paolo Bianco, scientist and defender of the anti-Stamina movement, passed away Saturday at the age of sixty. Here are the memories of colleague, friend and senator for life, Elena Cattaneo.

“We shall never surrender.” I often heard Paolo say these famous words first spoken by Churchill. He would cite them when our conversations ended up remembering the lessons of the courageous men of the past and the vision of those who made History. He would cite them when our discussions shifted to the role science should have (but does not have enough) in our society. 

The ethics of changing genes in the embryo

From the moment we began to unlock the secrets of the genome, the complete set of DNA including all genes and understand the effects that genes can have on human health, the idea of modifying the human genome – and hence controlling these effects – has held both promise and peril. Visions of a bright future free from the sufferings of genetic disease contrast starkly with darker fears of a genetically-engineered ‘Brave New World’. 

CRISPR - changing the gene editing landscape

In the last few years, the scientific community has seen rapid development of a new and ‘game-changing’ technology called CRISPR/Cas9. But what is CRISPR? How is it is being used by stem cell researchers? And why has it sparked debate? In this post, Dong Liu (PhD student at MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine) describes a technology that is altering the pace and possibilities of stem cell research.

Eight tiny organs grown by scientists

On 20 July researchers at the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine announced that they had regrown damaged livers in mice. It’s just one example of scientists growing tiny versions of organs in animals and in the lab to study development and disease, and test potential treatments. Many of these organs also represent the first steps towards growing whole organs – or parts of organs – for transplant. MRC Science Writer Cara Steger rounds up progress.

Regulation of unproven stem cell therapies – medicinal product or medical procedure?

This article is the second in a series of posts about unproven stem cell treatments by guest authors Casimir MacGregor, Alan Petersen and Megan Munsie. Their first post took a closer look at Germany's X-Cell Center and stem cell tourism. Here they consider the regulatory frameworks governing unproven stem cell treatments in Europe, the US and Australia.

Reflections on Stockholm: Tissue Engineering, Organ Development and Regeneration

Prospective PhD student Eilidh Livingston discusses her personal highlight - tissue engineering - from the international Society for Stem Cell Research's annual meeting in Stockholm in June this year.  Read on for a nice overview of the topic...

Stem cell tourism: selling hope through unproven stem cell treatments - lessons from the X-Cell Center controversy

In recent years there has been a growing interest in so-called stem cell ‘tourism’ - where a person (often companied by their carer/family) travels to another country for a purported stem cell treatment that is not available in their home country. Many advertised treatments are clinically unproven, with little or no evidence for their safety and efficacy in specific conditions.

Managing the potential and pitfalls of emerging stem cell therapies

While blood stem cells have been used clinically for over 40 years, it was the discovery of human embryonic stem cells in 1998, that has built expectations for people affected by a multitude of degenerative, chronic and fatal diseases with no cures or effective treatments. The speed with which therapies were expected to roll out of the lab did not take into consideration the complete lack of infrastructure required to make it happen, for many turning potential into frustration.

Cell replacement therapies: iPS technology or transdifferentiation?

The ability to convert one cell type into another has caused great excitement in the stem cell field. Two main techniques exist: one reprograms somatic cells into pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells), the other converts somatic cells directly into other types of specialized cells (transdifferentiation). These techniques raise high hopes that patient-personalized cell therapies will become a reality in the not-so-distant future.