A special public debate will be held tonight (Monday, March 31) with members of the public ‘voting’ on the future use of stem cells as potential treatments for major diseases and injuries.
The Scottish Stem Cell Network (SSCN) said the event in Edinburgh aimed to inform people and engage them in debate rather than enforce ideological opinions.
“Scotland is at the forefront of ground-breaking advances in stem cell technology and we fully understand that ethical and technical issues that can create public distrust, misconceptions and misguided expectations constantly need to be addressed,” said Dr Marilyn Robertson, Executive Director of the SSCN, one of the event organisers.
“The SSCN is working to inform the public debate rather than enforcing ideological opinions.
“It is one of our key objectives to engage with the public as clearly and fully as possible as Scotland’s established centres of excellence in stem cell technology make progress with research that, hopefully, will lead to clinical reality.”
The SSCN is the Edinburgh-based, not-for-profit organisation, with funding from Scottish Enterprise, that brings together scientists, academics, clinicians and businesses to help in the advance of stem cell biology towards new treatments for degenerative diseases.
Responding directly to the recent critical views of Cardinal Keith O’Brien on embryo research, Dr Robertson, said:
“Stem cell research is tightly regulated in the UK and the SSCN has been actively involved in the debate leading to proposed modifications of the HFEA Act over the past 18 months.
“The changes to the Act being debated in Parliament now reflect the need to understand human stem cell biology and research how the power of cells can be harnessed to treat otherwise untreatable diseases.
“This research is clearly and most definitely worthwhile.
“We are striving to bring together scientists and clinicians in order to improve the rate at which laboratory research translates into therapeutic benefits for patients affected by such devastating conditions as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, diabetes, stroke, multiple sclerosis and sight loss.
“Events like this play an important role in the SSCN effort to inform and involve the public at large. Those with an interest in stem cell research will have an opportunity to discuss and voice their opinion on how it should advance.”
Under discussion at tonight’s debate will be hypothetical clinical trial as suggested by a mock news story issued to those attending.
Scientists, clinicians, investors and patients will discuss, among other matters, the safety of treatments and which types of human stem cells could or should be used to revolutionise patient care.
“Those attending will be asked to register their ‘vote’ to allow the trial to proceed before and after hearing the panel of experts,” said Dr Robertson.
The panel of experts for the event, part of the Edinburgh International Science Festival, at the Royal College of Surgeons in Hill Square include Professor Sir Ian Wilmut, Director (Scottish Centre for Regenerative Medicine); Professor Stuart Forbes, Clinical Scientist (Scottish Centre for Regenerative Medicine); Susan Polson, Patient Group Representative (Multiple Sclerosis Society.)
Note to editors:
The Scottish Stem Cell Network (SSCN) is the Edinburgh-based, not-for-profit organisation, with funding from Scottish Enterprise, that brings together scientists, academics, clinicians and businesses to help in the advance of stem cell biology towards new treatments for degenerative diseases.
The Scottish Stem Cell Network (SSCN) was launched in 2003 initially as a pilot project with support from Scottish Enterprise Edinburgh and Lothian.