Challenging hype, maintaining hope in stem cell research

13 July 2018
Public lectures are one of the many ways researchers engage with the community
The potential of stem cell research to transform healthcare is a tantalising prospect, especially for those suffering from currently incurable conditions. However, beyond the realm of research, there is a growing commercial ‘stem cell’ industry, founded not on evidence, but on the promise of success. 

Surveys have indicated that while many Australians view stem cell research as likely to ‘improve’ our way of life, less than half of those who were supportive felt that they knew enough to explain to a friend what stem cells are and how they might help.

Associate Professor Megan Munsie, from Stem Cells Australia’s Engagement, Ethics and Policy Program, is dedicated to addressing this issue by taking the science out of the lab and into the community. She has long recognised that researchers need to share their excitement about the genuine progress that is being made in medical research -  but we also need to clearly acknowledge that we are not yet at a stage where we can offer treatments beyond those currently available for diseases affecting the blood or involving simple skin grafts. 

Megan’s work was recently recognised by the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR), at the 16th Annual Meeting, held in Melbourne early this month. Megan was awarded the 2018 ISSCR Public Service Award, which is given in recognition of outstanding contributions of public service to the fields of stem cell research and regenerative medicine.

She played an important role in guiding content development for A Closer Look at Stem Cells, the ISSCR website dedicated to helping the public understand the biology and clinical applications of stem cells, as well as contributing to ISSCR’s guidelines setting standards for research and clinical translation. She has also co-authored the Australian Stem Cell Handbook and many other resources to help patients navigate their healthcare options.

She has also worked closely with regulators and other experts to ensure adequate standards are met around the development of new stem cell-based medicines - no matter the unmet need.

Megan’s message is clear. The future of stem cell science does offer hope. Progress is being made. Sophisticated solutions to complex problems are being developed and tested, but it will require time to determine which approaches will be effective and safe. Beware of those offering simplistic solutions. Being enthusiastic is not enough. We must all insist that evidence underpins progress in stem cell science. 

Hear more about Megan’s work by clicking on the links below:
Megan recently moderated the 'Stem Cell Research - Now and in the Future' Public Forum, where over 350 people came to hear from leading Australian researchers, as they discussed how stem cells could change the future of medicine.