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expert reaction to news of stem cells being used in a stroke trial

Scientists comment on work by Glasgow scientists and Surrey based stem cell firm ReNeuron


James Lawford Davies, Partner, Lawford Davies Denoon, a life sciences law firm, said:

“In the UK, fetal stem cells are regulated differently to embryonic stem cells. Whereas the derivation of stem cell lines from human embryos is subject to specific regulation by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), UK law does not distinguish between fetal tissue and other tissue from living patients. Fetal tissue is treated as the mother’s tissue, and is governed by the consent provisions of the Human Tissue Act which regulates the storage and use of tissues and cells from living donors. Other bodies, such as GTAC and the MHRA, will then be involved in the regulation of any clinical trials involving either embryonic or fetal stem cells.”

Further info on regulation available at:

Prof Chris Mason, Chair of Regenerative Medicine Bioprocessing, University College London, said:

“This important clinical trial clearly demonstrates that the UK is capable of not only the very best stem cell research but also its translation into routine clinical practice. However, the country needs more companies like ReNeuron if the UK is to benefit from its multimillion pound investment in stem cell science. This will require the Coalition Government to make a substantial long-term commitment to facilitate an internationally competitive UK cell therapy industry that will have a major share of the eventual billion pound market whilst benefiting NHS patients.”


Prof Darren Griffin, Professor of Genetics, School of Biosciences, University of Kent, said:

“The news by the Glasgow team represents an important and exciting step with potential, in the long term, for treatment of a range of diseases. We should guard against raising expectations of miracle cures for thousands of patients in the near future however as the current trial will require extensive tests for efficacy and safety. Nevertheless there is room for cautious optimism.

“It is understandable that individuals should feel uneasy about the use of fetal cells, however, it is important to balance that with the potential benefit to patients, and the fact that use of fetal cells is now minimal and highly regulated. In any event, the use of induced pluripotent stem cells has the potential to get around many of these ethical concerns.”


Prof Anthony Hollander, ARC Professor of Rheumatology & Tissue Engineering, University of Bristol, said:

“Successful stem cell therapies will come from painstaking research and carefully planned clinical trials. This stroke trial is based on good research and careful planning. It’s far too early to know if the treatment will be successful but the very fact that the trial is now underway is a milestone for UK stem cell research.”


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