Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Dublin conference on stem cell research

A three-day international symposium on the theme of Human Pluripotent Stem Cells took place in Dublin on 22, 23 and 24 April. Initial short presentations on ‘Creating the appropriate environment for stem cell innovation in Ireland’, ‘Increasing Ireland’s competitiveness in the stem cell research sector : funding and policy’, and ‘Facilitating basic and applied stem cell research in Ireland through scientifically informed governmental policy’ were made. However, an alarming proportion of the twenty-five papers presented over the three days specifically concerned the involvement of human embryonic stem cells.

The holding of the symposium was made known publicly only last week, when Professor Patrick Cunningham, Chief Science Advisor to the Irish Government had an article on stem cell research published in the Irish Times. In the course of his article, he admitted that, had the Irish 2002 abortion referendum passed, the human embryo outside the womb would have been left without any legal protection, because the amendment proposed in the referendum would have effectively defined such protection as beginning at implantation, and not at conception.

It seems that the symposium was initially, and very quietly, advertised last February, and when a colleague applied for a place at the meeting, she was informed that it was ‘oversubscribed’ and that the organisers were ‘no longer accepting registrations’.

It is incredible to consider that so much time and money is being wasted pursuing an unethical and ultimately futile area of research, when experts in the field have already described the embryo debate as 'dead'.