Views sought on stem cell research

Views sought on stem cell research

Aberdeen researchers want to find out what the public really think about a controversial area of science that is often in the news.

The University of Aberdeen team is trying to build a picture of the public's perception of stem cell research. They also want to establish the extent to which these views are shaped by the media.

The researchers have already spoken to patients with two of the diseases that perhaps, in the future, might benefit from this area of research – Parkinson's Disease and Type 1 Diabetes.

They have also heard from fertility patients who are helping further the science by donating surplus embryos for stem cell research at the end of their In-vitro Fertilisation Treatment (IVF).

Now researchers are turning their attention to people with no personal involvement and who are not currently potential beneficiaries of research on stem cells.

Val Peddie, Clinical Research Midwife, is leading the study. She said: "Projected population changes suggest that patients benefiting from stem cell research will double over the next 20 years.

"This presents a challenge for the NHS as well those involved in stem cell research.

"Without knowing patients' and the public's perceptions, reservations and motivations, policymakers are unlikely to be able to meet the demand for progress in this controversial area without major political and ethical debate."

Ms Peddie says it is widely believed that stem cell research has the potential to revolutionise medicine and improve the quality and length of life, but that many are concerned about the ethical implications of using stem cells derived from human embryos.

She added: "Most of the available literature surrounding stem cell research examines the views of the scientific community and relatively little work has been done on the general public or those who stand to benefit in other ways.

"As those views have not been canvassed, it is not known to what extent people are influenced by personal experience, by their beliefs or the media.

"There is a need for wider public consultation which would inform future national clinical and research strategies and strengthen their acceptability."

The study will explore the public's knowledge and understanding and gauge their views on possible future benefits. It will also examine the public's thoughts on the use of unused embryos.

Researchers are hoping to speak to men and women of any age, background and occupation who would be happy to take part in a short 20 to 30 minute question and answer session at Aberdeen Maternity Hospital.

Any member of the public wishing to take part in the study should contact Val Peddie on 01224 554874 or Maureen Porter on 01224 554875 or email: href="mailto:v.peddie@abdn.ac.uk">v.peddie@abdn.ac.uk</a> or m.a.porter@abdn.ac.uk</p>

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