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Dublin: 21 °C Thursday 24 July, 2014

New stem cell discovery made – but Ireland “far behind” with legislation

Japanese researchers find a new way of generating stem cells, but experts in Ireland are calling for developments here.

Image: Samples via Shutterstock

NEW RESEARCH FROM Japan shows that stem cells can be made by ‘shocking’ blood cells by dipping them into acid – but Irish experts say legislation is needed for the sector here.

The discovery, which is outlined in Nature Journal, could, says chief scientific officer of the Irish Stem Cell Foundation, Dr Stephen Sullivan, “herald the way for easily generating stem cells from patients in a cheap, simple and timely manner”.

As BBC News explains, the new means has been called a “major scientific discovery” and was achieved with mouse blood cells. It is hoped that researchers will find the same results when the undertake the procedure with human blood.

Dr Sullivan said: “Assuming the cells are normal (and much testing needs to be undertaken before we know that), this approach could herald a new era in personalised medicine.”

However, he cautioned that while Ireland is developing its stem cell manufacturing infrastructure, “it is far behind in introducing that necessary legislation that would allow Ireland collaborate effectively with the outside world and attract much needed FDI in this growing sector”.

Dr Sullivan said that Minister Sean Sherlock “has failed to address the issue as to why Ireland still lacks the necessary supportive legislation”.

His Government promised to introduce such legislation in the Program for Government. Failure to coordinate legislation and infrastructure will result in a substantial opportunity loss in this competitive and emergent sector. It will also not allow Irish patients optimal access to pan-national clinical trials.

The first stem cell manufacturing facility on the island of Ireland was opened on Monday at NUI Galway.

Sherlock, who is Minister of State for Research and Innovation, opened the centre and described it as “clear evidence of the potential benefits offered by this Government’s substantial investment in applied research”.

Read: Stem cells for human use can now be manufactured in Ireland>

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