Scottish Stem Cell Network

Scotland, which is part of the United Kingdom, is a major biotech center with academic institutions teaching cellular biology, clinicians seeking regenerative medicine technology to improve patients’ quality of life, and private companies pursuing means of translating research into commercially viable products. Scotland’s stem cell researchers are well known in the international community. One of their best-known successes was the first cloning of a mammal (a sheep named Dolly) in 1996, following on the heels of researchers in Scotland creating some of the world’s first transgenic mice.

The Scottish Stem Cell Network, based in Edinburgh, was established in 2003 as a network to coordinate researchers and those practicing medicine to provide optimal patient care by making stem cell technology from scientific innovation available for the treatment of disease in a timely manner. The network’s additional role in development is to attract new researchers to Scotland and help start companies that will transfer research breakthroughs into commercial products or technologies and, by doing so, enhance the Scottish economy. The network also provides a central point for the international community to access Scottish stem cell researchers. Funding for the Scottish Stem Cell Network was initially provided by Scottish Enterprise Edinburgh and Lothian, with promised funding of £1.85 million over 10 years.

The Scottish Stem Cell Network’s steering group includes representatives from Scottish Enterprise Edinburgh and Lothian; the universities of Dundee, Edinburgh, and Glasgow; the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service; the Roslin Institute; and ITI Life Sciences.

The laws and regulations applying to stem cell research in Scotland include those of the United Kingdom, including the 1990 Human Fertilization and Embryology Act; the Human Fertilization and Embryology regulations of January 22, 2001; and a ban on reproductive cloning effective December 4, 2001, as well as the Human Tissue (Scotland) Act 2006. The United Kingdom has no ban on therapeutic cloning, though surveillance is in place to ensure that every cloned embryo is accounted for and subject to the law.

Combined, these laws permit human embryonic stem cell research and the creation of embryos for research purposes, as well as cloning embryos younger than 14 days (research on embryos older than 14 days is prohibited because of the formation of the central nervous system). All research must be licensed by the governing authority. Approval for research may be granted for research focusing on treatment for infertility, causes of congenital disease or miscarriages, contraceptive development, detecting or diagnosing genetic or chromosomal abnormalities in embryos before their use for in vitro fertilization, and other purposes to increase knowledge regarding the creation and development of embryos and their potential use in developing medical therapies. Research proposals may be denied if they do not meet the approved focus for research or it is possible that the research be completed using nonhuman or other means.

The activities of the Scottish Stem Cell Network include conference organization, marketing Scotland’s stem cell research opportunities and advantages for choosing Scotland for the development of biotechnology companies to national and international researchers, forming partnerships and collaborations with other Scottish organizations to develop the Scottish stem cell industry to augment the economy and to increase membership in the network by researchers and those interested in stem cell research.

The successes of the network include a March 2005 international conference that attracted representatives from 18 countries to a forum for dialoguing on fundamental stem cell science and its application to medical therapy through commercial product development. To further the Scottish Stem Cell Network’s goal of providing conferences and meetings, it is sponsoring the meeting of the Scottish Stem Cell Biology Group and encouraging participation in the Scottish Enterprise Technology Showcase for the promotion of life sciences and companies, as well as other national and international forums including Institute of Stem Cell Research and EuroStemCell.

Through participation in the Scottish Development Initiative, the Scottish Stem Cell Network will provide opportunities to attract funding with an eye to commercial product development through research and development collaborations and partnerships, as well as assistance with licensing and developing national and international relationships.


Because of the importance of stem cells both in the study of disease and in terms of their potential to treat disease and to further enhance the translation of stem cell research into clinical therapy, the University of Edinburgh is creating the Scottish Center for Regenerative Medicine, with an estimated completion date of 2010. The center will include research and cell-manufacturing laboratories as well as space for biomedical industry commercial activities. The center’s director will be Ian Wilmut (the researcher who created Dolly).

Researchers there will use stem cells, including human embryonic stem cells, with the hope of using them in treating diabetes, neurodegenera-tive diseases, and spinal cord injuries, as well as in transplantation for cancers and blood disorders.

The Scottish Stem Cell Network’s Web site ( provides a members’ section and information on how to join the network, as well as the benefits of being part of the organization, in addition to providing news and events.

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