Today’s papers report on ‘a potential game changer’ for stem cell therapy. Scientists in Japan have discovered a simple method to convert adult mouse cells into embryonic like stem cells which may have the potential to regenerate anything from neurons to heart tissue.
By replacing or regenerating human cells, tissues or organs, innovative regenerative techniques present enormous opportunities. They have the potential to treat and cure diseases where there is unmet need, not to mention improve the quality of people's lives and generate significant economic benefits for the UK. More work lies ahead of course, to establish whether the newly reported technique would work reliably and safely for use in medical treatment. However, the UK risks missing out to countries like Japan and the USA if the right regulatory and commercial environments are not established.
As the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee recognised in its report last summer, a number of specific challenges face the sector, which must be addressed if medicines are to reach from ‘bench to bedside’. Regenerative medicines incur significant up-front investment, and may also deliver economic benefits through reduced healthcare needs and improved productivity. These outcomes must be adequately reflected by NICE when it comes to assessing these medicines and by commissioners in making these innovative treatments available to patients.
If this potential game changer becomes a reality, the age of personalized medicine will have finally arrived. The advances reported illustrate the opportunity that regenerative medicines could create. We need to start planning for this future now so that patients in the UK can benefit from this groundbreaking science.