More MS news articles for Aug 2001

Liberal Britain Expected to Have Edge in Stem Cell Research

LONDON (Reuters Health) Aug 10 - Britain, with the world's most liberal policy on stem cell research, may benefit from more scientific "defections" as President George W. Bush's position leaves US research hamstrung, academics and biotechnology firms said on Friday.

The Bush decision means that US-funded academics may use only 60 existing cell lines worldwide because the embryos have already been destroyed while researchers in Britain can develop their own stem cell lines and also engage in so-called "therapeutic cloning."

"Academic researchers really want to be able to make their own cell lines," said Robin Lovell-Badge, head of developmental genetics at the National Institute for Medical Research in London. He believes the tough commercial restrictions likely to be involved in using existing cell lines will deter pure research.

"We are definitely better off it is possible that some US researchers will still think about moving here if they feel their hands are tied," he told Reuters.

Last month, leading US stem cell researcher Roger Pedersen announced that he was moving his research from California to Cambridge University in England in a reverse "brain drain," highlighting a transatlantic gulf on the issue.

Simon Best, chief executive of Edinburgh-based Ardana Biosciences, who sits on biotechnology trade bodies on both sides of the Atlantic, said the measures announced by Bush were only a partial solution for US scientists. "What's now allowed in the US is only one part of the doesn't address the issue of how you put transformed stem cells into an individual patient without rejection," he said.

Best believes that to work through that problem, researchers will probably have to resort to therapeutic cloning.

Britain in January became the first country explicitly to allow therapeutic cloning under strict conditions while the US House of Representatives last month voted against any such work.

Robert Terry, senior policy adviser at the Wellcome Trust medical charity, said the UK's "responsible but positive pro-science stance" would enable the full potential of therapeutic cloning to be realized.

Trevor Jones, chairman of Europe's first listed stem cell company, ReNeuron Holdings Plc, believes UK academia will now build on its pioneering position in stem cell work. "A US ban on cloning for therapeutic purposes, together with the restriction placed by President Bush on federal funding of US research using new stem cell lines, will benefit the UK's academic research base," he said.

Copyright © 2001 Reuters Ltd