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Brussels, 29 March 2007

European Commission creates registry for human embryonic stem cell lines

The European Commission has today agreed funding for the creation of a European registry for human embryonic stem cell lines. The main objective of this new initiative, funded through the EU's Research Framework Programme, is to provide comprehensive information about all human embryonic stem cells lines available in Europe. A publicly accessible internet site will contain high quality data about the cell lines (e.g. cell characteristics) and will inform on interesting developments, such as clinical trials. There will be details on the sources of the stem cell lines and contact data. The registry will also include information on human embryonic stem cell lines obtained from on-going and future EU-funded projects. 81 different lines are currently used in EU projects. The project has been agreed for 3 years, with EU funding of just over €1m.

"The EU is 100% committed to the highest possible standards of ethics in regard to its research programme and this includes the use of human embryonic stem cells. We have a strict and transparent environment for their use in place in our programme," said European Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potočnik. "This registry plays an important part, making the most effective use of existing stem cell lines and avoiding the unnecessary creation of new ones. It will also be useful in the creation of common international standardisation for the characterisation of these stem cells, essential for progress towards new cures and therapies."

A human embryonic stem cell line is a culture of stem cells isolated from an early human embryo; this cell culture can be grown indefinitely in the laboratory. By keeping a register of all existing lines, the stem cell registry will enhance the coordination and efficiency of human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research in Europe. It will allow the monitoring of existing hESCs in Europe and ensure they are better used by scientists.

This EU registry is the largest initiative of its kind in the world, and testament to the leading role of Europe in this type of research within tight ethical limits. 10 EU countries are involved in the registry - Belgium, The Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands and the UK – all of whom are active in this research. Every EU country that allows the creation of new stem cell lines is involved in the initiative. This will facilitate/ensure the collection of information from all lines produced in the EU. Israel, Switzerland, Turkey, the US and Australia will also be involved in the project. The project will receive €1m of financing from the EU's Sixth Research Framework Programme. The registry will be operated jointly by the Centre of Regenerative Medicine in Barcelona and the Berlin-Brandenburg Centre for Regenerative Therapies in Berlin.

Within the project, an Advisory Board will ensure the highest possible quality of the information provided. A Steering Committee with national contact points will ensure the connection with the hESC research community and provide updates. And independent Ethics Advisory Board will provide ethical guidance on the information provided and issues such as data protection.

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