4 May 2005

An international symposium on stem cells will be held at the Australian Academy of Science on Friday 6 May, as part of its annual Science at the Shine Dome festivities. The symposium will discuss the latest discoveries, potential therapies and ethical issues raised by stem cell research.

Two leading scientists from The University of Queensland's Institute for Molecular Bioscience, Associate Professor Melissa Little and Professor Brandon Wainwright will be part of an impressive array of speakers.

‘This year two Acts of Parliament will be reviewed, the Research Involving Human Embryos Act 2002 and the Prohibition of Human Cloning Act 2002, so our symposium is most timely,' said Dr Jim Peacock, President of the Australian Academy of Science.

‘In presenting the annual symposium, the Academy plans to ensure that the very best international science is available to policy makers,' Dr Peacock said.

Symposium convenor Professor Bob Williamson (Faculty of Medicine, University of Melbourne) commented on the rapid progress in stem cell research. ‘Stem cells are now being studied in several Australian laboratories, including the National Stem Cell Centre, so that one day we may treat conditions as diverse as Parkinson's disease, cystic fibrosis and kidney failure.'

The ethical and legal issues are important, in Australia and around the world. ‘Many medical needs can be met by adult stem cells from patients, but most scientists think that there will be some diseases for which studies on embryonic stem cells will be necessary,' said Professor Williamson.

Of particular interest will be the talk by IMB's Associate Professor Melissa Little who will discuss the prospects of regenerating or repairing the kidney, a tissue previously thought to lack a persistent stem cell population, using either factors, recruitment of stem cells from distant sites or embryonal stem cells.

In addition Professor Brandon Wainwright, IMBs Deputy Director of Research will discuss lung development and the role of stem cells when airways become injured in cystic fibrosis and other diseases.

The symposium is sponsored by the Lion Foundation, the Queensland Brain Institute of the University of Queensland, the ANZ Children's Heart Research Centre, Cystic Fibrosis Victoria and Cystic Fibrosis Australia, the Australian Stem Cell Centre and Biotechnology Australia.

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