Saturday 16 December 2017

Time is right for embryonic research - stem cell expert

Professor Frank Barry
Professor Frank Barry
Caroline Crawford

Caroline Crawford

One of the country's top stem cell professors has called for embryonic research to be carried out in Ireland.

Prof Frank Barry said that he was aware of objections to the process on the basis of ethical concerns but believed such research could give rise to important treatments and should be developed in Ireland.

Prof Barry, the Scientific Director of REMEDI, the Regenerative Medicine Institute at NUI Galway, said that, while Ireland is at the front of research in adult stem cell projects and can compete internationally, it has made "little contribution" to the area of embryonic stem cell research.

Prof Barry told the Irish Independent that he believes this an area on which we need to focus more .

"There have been objections on the basis of ethical concerns. But embryonic stem cell research may give rise to other important treatments and as such should be developed in Ireland," he added.

Prof Barry was speaking at an international stem cell conference being held in the Bailey Allen Hall in NUI Galway.

World-renowned experts from the field of stem cell science are attending the conference, which focuses on the latest developments in basic science and translational aspects of Mesenchymal Stem Cell (MSC) research in Ireland, the UK and worldwide. A type of adult stem cell, MSCs, have shown huge potential for use in many medical therapies.

Prof Barry told the conference that clinical trials would begin on a number of MSC projects next year. These will include trials in the treatment of peripheral arterial disease and osteoarthritis.

This will be followed in 2016 by trials in treatments for corneal transplants and diabetic ulcers.

"We'll be starting clinical trials here in Galway in 2015 in stem cells from either bone marrow or fat tissue tested to treat osteoarthritis in the knee - that's people with moderate or severe osteoarthritis, or patients ... such as diabetic patients," said Prof Barry.

The osteoarthritis trial is a multi-centre trial with a total of 150 patients who will be treated in 10 different sites around Europe including Galway.

The four-year project will see patients receive a single dose of stem cells. Any improvement or otherwise in their joints will then be followed up for two years.

"There is so much going on here in terms of exciting clinical development. One of my colleagues, Thomas Ritter, is looking at using stem cells to assist in corneal transplant in patients that have a grafted cornea.

"The stem cells can potentially improve the acceptance of the corneal graft. That's very important and very exciting work. That will go to clinical trial in 2016," he added.

Speaking about the upcoming trials on diabetic ulcers, which often lead to foot amputations, Prof Barry said the initial data on stem cell treatment was "very positive".

Irish Independent

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