Leaders of national embryonic stem cell banks in the United States and the United Kingdom pledged Monday to work together to promote research, create international standards and more efficiently distribute each other's cells.
The officials told reporters they hoped the efforts were the beginning of a long partnership between the National Stem Cell Bank in Madison and the U.K. Stem Cell Bank near London.
While stem cell research is in its early stages, scientists believe it may eventually lead to treatment and perhaps cures for diseases such as Parkinson's and juvenile diabetes.
The government-funded U.K. bank opened in 2004 as a repository for stem cells derived from embryos and adults. Its American counterpart was created the following year at WiCell Research Institute, a nonprofit connected to the University of Wisconsin, under a federal contract.
The U.S. bank houses and distributes 13 of the 21 embryonic stem cell lines that can be used in federally funded research under President Bush's policy limiting support to lines created before 2001. Wisconsin researcher James Thomson isolated the first of those lines in 1998.
Stem cells are created in the first days after conception. Because they go on to form the body's tissues and cells, scientists say they could unlock the mystery of many diseases and one day lead to cures.
But some people oppose the research because days-old embryos — usually leftover from fertility treatments — are destroyed in the effort to isolate the cells.
The two banks said they would discuss international standards for how cells are ethically derived from human embryos and maintained.
'Our main focuses are very similar: We want to promote the research and the development of potential therapies in the future,' said Glyn Stacey, director of the U.K. bank. 'These are the kinds of issues we're talking about, and trying to make appropriate cell lines available to researchers and for clinical trials as well.'
Carl Gulbrandsen, president of WiCell, said the two would discuss joint distribution of each other's cell lines. His group has already reached distribution agreements with some overseas companies.
'Shipping stem cell lines overseas is no easy task, hoping they arrive, they are healthy and can be used,' he said.
Source: Bio-Bio Technology