The field of regenerative medicine is being jeopardised by low quality research and should be reformed, say a team of experts this week.
A commission of senior scientists was brought together by The Lancet to discuss the issue of experimental therapies such as tissue engineering and cell and gene therapy. It was led by cell biologist Professor Giulio Cossu, of The University of Manchester, UK, and included senior scientists from University College London, the University of Manchester, Oxford and Bristol Universities.
The experts called for 'root and branch reform' of the way experimental therapies are carried out in regenerative medicine, as the area is 'held back by poor quality science, unrealistic hopes, unclear funding models and unscrupulous private clinics'.
Poorly controlled trials and poorly regulated clinics have grown in recent years, and overall, the experts believe that that most therapies have had modest or no effect.
They report that: 'New therapies expose patients to risks, some of which are difficult to predict even with inbuilt safeguards.
'Despite the relatively small number of clinical successes, there are gaps between people's expectations, often inflated by media reports, and the realities of translating regenerative technologies into clinical practice.'
Professor Cossu said: 'The Commission finds that a major rethink of the social contract that supports regenerative medicine is required if it is to shift from mostly small-scale bespoke experimental interventions into routine clinical practice.'
Recommendations include more investment into the transition from preclinical to clinical work; prioritising research into how cell and gene therapies can become cost-effective and scalable; an international register of cell and biological experimental interventions, and greater public dialogue by researchers involved in funding, publishing, and communicating stem cell research.
Source: Lancet Commission: Stem cells and regenerative medicine. Lancet 5 October 2017
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