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2 posts from September 2009

September 23, 2009

September 23 is Stem Cell Awareness Day

Many of us are well aware of the incredible speed of scientific advancement in the field of stem cells. It gleans regular attention in the media – a Google News search can quickly return hundreds of items within any 24-hour period. So why a day dedicated to stem cell awareness?

Because, despite the plethora of information, there is still misinformation – particularly regarding unrealistic promises being made in certain jurisdictions around the world. This is one of the reasons Monash University in Australia and the California Regenerative Medicine Institute organized the first Stem Cell Awareness Day in 2008. The goal was to foster greater understanding of stem cells within the global community, by finding ways for patients, scientists, ethicists, clinicians and the general public to engage in conversations.

This year, Stem Cell Awareness Day has grown – like cells in culture – with events that include poetry and photography contests, guest lectures, lab tours, webcasts, conference activities and the launch of the Stem Cell Charter. Through the Charter, anybody with web access can pledge their support for the advancement of stem cell research for the benefit of humankind.

September 22, 2009

Stem Cell Charter champions scientific principles and the health of humankind

Today’s launch of the Stem Cell Charter (www.stemcellcharter.org) is a landmark moment for stem cell science worldwide. As a researcher in the field, I have always believed in and adhered to the underlying principles included in the Charter, as do my colleagues and students.

But stem cell science is bigger than the labs, as is attested by the interest from patients awaiting treatment for a range of debilitating and currently incurable illnesses, the rapid growth of industry in this area, as well as almost daily coverage in the mainstream media. Because of this and because there is so much potential in stem cells that we have yet to fully understand, it is important we give voice to the principles under which we will advance the field.

The Stem Cell Charter articulates these principles - responsible science, protection of citizens, intellectual freedom, transparency and integrity. These are the cornerstone of the science – they separate responsible research conducted in labs from unregulated and unproven treatments sold by rogue clinics. The Stem Cell Charter, an initiative of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation, was written by world-renowned bioethicist Bartha Maria Knoppers of McGill University, in collaboration with a working group of stem cell scientists, patients, ethicists and laypeople.

That this Charter originates in Canada is no small coincidence. Stem cells were discovered here nearly 50 years ago and we are recognized leaders in the field, not just in basic science, but in the formation of scientific networks and in the development of social, ethical and political frameworks. As part of the panel that developed the Charter, I understood the need to create a document that all people can support, irrespective of individual beliefs or geography. Because the Charter is about more than science – it’s about the health and future of humankind.

See also the SCN news release