The United Kingdom (UK) has shown considerable lead and strength in stem cell research. In fact, the UK government follows the premise that stem cell research provides vast potential to create new treatments for many serious diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. This recognition of stem cell potential to reduce suffering and save lives has led to policies with the aim of ensuring safety and progress as we head into the 21st century.
The Necessities of Funding
Quite simply, stem cell research can’t proceed without proper funding to secure research efforts. Fortunately, the UK government has recognised the need for funding increases and has acted accordingly. In the years 2004-2005, the government flooded approximately £25 million into research and other areas such as the UK Stem Cell Bank.
In 2005, the UK Stem Cell Initiative (UKSCI) was announced, which set out to construct a ten-year plan for stem cell research within the UK, encouraging both public and private funding of research in the field. Due to the recommendations in the UKSCI, the public sector funding for stem cell research over 2006-07 and 2007-08 will have increased to £100 million. Generally, the policies involve:
- Maintenance and enhancement of the UK Stem Cell Bank
- Increased funds allotted to stem cell research
- Reasonable monitoring of stem cell research to ensure safety alongside progress
- Support of clinical trials
- Fostering links between scientists, international stem cell research bodies and overall, improving dialogue amongst experts in the field
- Continued assessment of stem cell research development and consistent regulation of spending to ensure successful investment in stem cells
Establishing Toxicology Tools for Stem Cell Lines
The UK government has recognised the importance of stem cell safety. In light of this, the UKSCI aims to create a broad range of stem cell based treatments that are both safe and successful. Developing and effectively utilising toxicology tools will ensure that the benefits of therapy are maximised while the risks are minimised.
UK Stem Cell Bank Stability and Funding
The UK Stem Cell Bank is vital for its provision of ethically sourced and viable stem cell lines. The government is committed to maintaining a permanent and stable operational site as well as secured funding to maintain and encourage use of stem cell lines from the facility.
Flexible Regulation of Stem Cell Research
It is important that stem cell safety and risk are carefully balanced alongside the benefits of stem cell therapy to society. The government is dedicated to ensuring the safety of stem cell based research and therapies while reducing risks and without compromising advancement and progress in the field.
The value of public input and clarity through each step of stem cell research is vital to its success. Public opinion and debate is to be valued for its promotion of accountability and responsibility in stem cell research. It is imperative that the public be informed of stem cell policies in addition to fostering public faith and confidence in the development of effective stem cell therapies.
With the support and increase in public funding for stem cell research as well as the advent of policies and new health opportunities in the commercial sector, the UK is set to continue leading the way for stem cell research.