Thursday, October 30, 2008

Stem Cell Expert Leaves England; Blames Insufficient Support for True Science

(Oh, did I mention the scientist in the case is an ADULT stem cell expert?)

One of the arguments used by politicians and academic officials who aggressively support embryonic stem cell experimentation (like those of the University of Nebraska Medical Center) is the "brain drain" that occurs when top-notch scientists go looking for the most lucrative opportunities to do research. It's always been a specious argument, one based on the politics of raking in grant money rather than the best science, but here's a story showing how the "brain drain" principle may soon become an argument against ESCR.

A renowned British stem-cell expert is to leave the UK to pursue his research in France, claiming that there is insufficient support for his work here.

Colin McGuckin, professor of regenerative medicine at Newcastle University and an expert in adult stem cells, this week hit out at both his university and UK funding agencies. He said that they were prioritising embryonic stem-cell research above work with adult stem cells, despite the more immediate clinical benefits offered by his work.

Professor McGuckin plans to leave for the University of Lyon in January, taking a research team of about ten from Newcastle, including his research partner Nico Forraz. He will open the world's biggest institute devoted to cord blood and adult stem-cell research at Lyon.

Professor McGuckin is the UK's leading scientist working on stem cells derived from babies' umbilical cord blood. This method of extraction yields cells similar to embryonic stem cells, but is far less controversial because no embryo is destroyed in the process. Professor McGuckin, a Catholic, pioneered this method with colleagues in 2005, and has used the cells to grow liver tissue.

Speaking exclusively to Times Higher Education, he said he was leaving because he had to put his patients and staff first. "The bottom line is my vocation is to work with patients and help patients and unfortunately I can't do that in the UK." He said France offered a "much better environment" both to "cure and treat more people" and to "do good work"...