UK stem cell bank to begin distribution

An initial six cell lines will soon be ready for withdrawal

By | September 19, 2006

Britain's groundbreaking stem cell bank is less than two weeks away from announcing its readiness to begin distributing embryonic cell lines, its chief executive Glyn Stacey said on Tuesday. By September 29, the bank will tell scientists the details of an initial six embryonic cell lines that have passed its stringent quality controls and are available for withdrawal, Stacey told The Scientist. The first batch will soon be joined by others. "The list will grow quite quickly," Stacey said. So far, roughly 40 cell lines have been accepted for deposit, about half from UK researchers, three from Australia and 17 from scientists at Harvard University. The bank was established in 2002 by the Medical Research Council and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council as a repository for all stem cell lines generated in the UK and many from overseas. All requests to deposit or withdraw lines must be given ethical and legal approval by its high-level steering committee, which is chaired by Lord Naren Patel. The committee scrutinizes whether lines are ethically sourced with fully informed consent and aims to ensure that they are used only in projects with ethical approval. Setting up the bank, which is housed at the UK's National Institute for Biological Standards and Control outside London, has been a painstaking process, said Stacey. "The organization has taken it as an important principle to have careful planning," he said. "We're not here to steal a few headlines, we're here to improve science and future medicine." Nevertheless, the bank is happy to be able to begin distributing cells. "There's an element of relief," Stacey said. "It's been critical for us to do it this year." The bank has already received a number of requests for stem cells from researchers in the UK and beyond, but is taking a careful approach to quality control and characterization of the lines before distributing them. "We don't want to release these cells and find people are having a lot of problems with them," Stacey said. Stephen Minger, a stem cell researcher at Kings College London, agreed. "It's not surprising this has taken a while to happen," he told The Scientist. "After all, it's better to do it well and do it right." Minger said his laboratory had already directly sent its own cell lines to 10 or 15 recipients around the world under the auspices of the bank, but "to have the bank up and functioning and have the capacity to send out these cell lines is actually really great," he said. Requests for approved stem cell lines currently being banked by the UK Stem Cell Bank should be directed to the Steering Committee for the UK Stem Cell Bank and for the use of Stem Cell Lines ( Stephen Pincock UK Stem Cell Bank A. Fazackerley, "UK stem cell bank ready to go," The Scientist, September 18, 2003. Steering Committee for the UK Stem Cell Bank and for the Use of Stem Cell Lines Lord Naren Patel S. Pincock, "UK's first human ES cell line," The Scientist, August 13, 2003.

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