News archive 2002
King's scientists lead world in stem cell research01 Mar 2002, PR 07/02
Scientists at King’s College London were today granted one of the first two licences to produce human embryonic stem cell lines.
This is the first time scientists have been allowed to work on developing embryonic stem cells for research as all previous embryo work has been for fertility treatment or other medical therapy.
The licence was approved by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) and comes only days after a House of Lords report agreed that embryonic stem cell research of this kind could go ahead. This makes King’s College, together with the Centre for Genome Research in Edinburgh, one of only two places in the world legally permitted to perform such pioneering work.
The licence is granted to three King’s College researchers: Dr Stephen Minger, Dr Susan Pickering and Professor Peter Braude who also works for the Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital NHS Trust.
Commenting on the HFEA’s decision, Dr Minger, neurobiologist in the School of Biomedical Sciences at King’s College, said:
“This is a very exciting day for science in the UK. The HFEA decision is a fantastic step forward for research in this country and the hope is that the results of this research will one day be applied to treating human diseases such as diabetes and Parkinson’s Disease.
“Embryonic stem cells are the most useful ones because they are very primitive- they have the potential to develop into any type of cell in the body. We have to work out how to coax them to develop into specific types of cells.
“We know that cell replacement therapy is effective in treating diseases such as diabetes and Parkinson’s, but it has been very difficult to produce enough cells to treat even one patient. An embryonic stem cell line would enable us to produce unlimited amounts of those special cells, so the benefits could be enormous. In Alzheimer's patients, for instance, stem cells could be used to form new neurons in the brain.
“However, we must play down talks of a new era of medicine a little, because even though this is trailblazing work, it will not lead to actual treatments for several years.
The teams of Professor Braude, Dr Minger and Dr Pickering represent a strong combination of clinical and scientific expertise from both King’s College London and the Guy’s & St Thomas’ NHS Trust. “It has taken a lot of hard work by the team to get this far", Dr Minger continued. "Now the real challenge has begun and we’re going to start work on increasing our knowledge of embryo development straight away.”
Notes to editors
King's College London
King's College London is the fourth oldest university in England with more than 13,700 undergraduates and nearly 5,600 graduate students in nine schools of study based at five London campuses. It is a member of the Russell Group: a coalition of the UK's major research-based universities. The College has had 24 of its subject-areas awarded the highest rating of 5* and 5 for research quality, demonstrating excellence at an international level, and it has recently received an excellent result in its audit by the Quality Assurance Agency.
King's has a particularly distinguished reputation in the humanities, law, international relations, medicine, nursing and the sciences, and has played major role in many of the advances that have shaped modern life, such as the discovery of the structure of DNA. It is the largest centre for the education of health care professionals in Europe and is home to five Medical Research Council Centres – more than any other university.
King's is in the top group of UK universities for research earnings, with income from grants and contracts of more than £114 million, and has anannual income of more than £369 million.
Stem cell research guidelines
Only stem cell lines from spare embryos created for IVF treatment are allowed to be used. King's College London
King's is one of the two oldest and largest colleges of the University of London with some 12,400 undergraduate students and over 4,700 postgraduates in ten schools of study. The College had 24 of its subject-areas awarded the highest rating of 5* and 5 for research quality, demonstrating excellence at an international level. It is in the top group of five universities for research earnings and has an annual turnover of over £300 million and research income from grants and contracts in excess of £87 million (2000-2001).
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