Vicky Ford MEP

Member of the European Parliament for the East of England

01 JUN 2012

East of England MEP promotes better understanding of stem-cell research

Vicky Ford, MEP for the East of England and a member of the Industry, Research and Energy Committee in the European  Parliament, this week hosted a lunch debate to help MEPs better understand the processes and benefits of stem cell research.

At the debate, held on Tuesday, five Professors leading research projects from across Europe presented to the audience.   Amongst the speakers were Professor Austin Smith from Cambridge University, who explained what pluripotent stem cells are and how embryonic stem cell lines are developed. Other speakers included Professor Anders Bjorklund from Lund University in Sweden, who discussed the use of stem cells for replacement therapy in Parkinson's disease, and Professor Elena Cattaneo, from the University of Milan, who presented her work on Huntingdon's disease. Professor Julie Daniels from University College Hospital in London described the work which they are leading using stem cells taken from adults to cure eye diseases and blindness.  Professor Daniel Pipeleers from Belgium spoke about his work with diabetes.

Speaking after the event, Mrs Ford said, "Scientists from across Europe are often leading the way to find solutions to what can be devastating diseases and conditions. Much of this work is funded from the EU Science budget. Rather than jump to conclusions about what is ethically good or bad science, politicians should also try to understand the methods used in the laboratories and the potential benefits such research can bring. We learnt that treating diseases with stem cell therapies is not a distant pipe dream but in some cases is already possible. We also heard that in some cases cells taken from living adults or cord blood are adequate, in other areas of research only embryonic stem cells appear to give results. We learnt how in the UK and some other countries, parents undergoing IVF will normally create more embryos than will be used in the fertility treatment, the unused embryos can be donated by parents to grow stem cell lines for research.

"Some MEPs would like to see a ban on all embryonic stem cell research and therapy across Europe. I disagree. Such decisions should be made at a national level not in Brussels, countries who want to ban it then can, countries who wish to continue should be free to do so."

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Economic Stability must come first. Without a strong economy we can not deliver a strong society. I work with businesses and consumers to keep Britain open for business, cutting red tape, boosting trade opportunities and helping to deliver jobs and growth for all.

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