Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Stem Cell Industry Must Tread a Fine Line

By Richard Harvey, Martin Pera and Megan Munsie

The emerging stem cell industry needs to be able to fast-track therapies into clinical trials without clearing the way for clinics to offer unproven therapies to vulnerable patients.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Internationally, stem cell science has developed incredible momentum with the promise of a revolution in medical therapies. This has been spurred on in 2007 with the discovery by Japanese scientist Shinya Yamanaka (who won the Nobel Prize in 2012) that the blood or skin cells of any person can be converted easily to a powerful form of stem cells called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS). In the laboratory, iPS cells can be expanded and differentiated into any cell type in the body, offering possibilities for using them to treat a range of diseases. We can now correct genetic defects in patient-derived iPS cells, which will lead to “personalised” therapies.

Australia has a strong legacy of excellence in stem cell research, including fundamental discoveries that have led to the routine use of bone marrow transplantation for blood disorders and cancers, and developments that made in vitro fertilisation safe for hundreds of thousands of couples worldwide each year. We were among the first to derive human embryonic stem cells, and our discoveries on neural, skin, breast, blood and kidney stem cells have kept us at the forefront of the field.

It’s against this background that the Australian Academy of Science last year convened a think tank for over 60 of Australia’s brightest early and mid-career researchers to imagine the future of stem cell science and...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.