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Calls for stem cell research in terminally ill patients

4th January 2006

Patients with Motor Neurone Disease and other terminal illnesses should be used to test the effectiveness of stem cell therapies, according to one of Britain's top scientists.

Professor Ian Wilmut, the director of Edinburgh University's Centre for Regenerative Medicine, believes it is the best way to speed up the development of new therapies, reports the Scotsman.

The experimental treatments would focus on the effects of transplanting stem cells into patients with conditions such as Motor Neurone Disease, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

Professor Wilmut argues that finding consenting volunteers would not be a problem and that it could provide hope for thousands of sufferers and their loved ones.

"They should be allowed to use treatments which have not been properly tested because in their case the benefits may outweigh the risk," he commented.

"If we wait until things are totally tested and analysed in animals, it will deny some people that treatment."

However, there are ethical concerns over procedures such as these and what safeguards would be put in place, while the health secretary is expected to make an announcement regarding stem cell research and therapies later this year.