Journal explores regenerative medicine in society

19 December 2017
A special edition of the Regenerative Medicine journal, entitled ‘Regenerative Medicine in Society – Interdisciplinary Perspectives’, featured ethical, regulatory and societal issues surrounding stem cell and regenerative medicine. 

Published in two parts in October and November, this edition was designed to inform a wide-range of people - policymakers, regulators, healthcare leaders, people affected by conditions, their carers, patient organizations, physicians, healthcare professionals, clinical researchers and staff as well as scholars from other fields and interested members of the public – about these issues and the future of regenerative medicine. 

Associate Professor Megan Munsie from the University of Melbourne joined colleagues from across the globe to write three articles. These covered topics ranging from how patients draw on information to decide whether to pursue unproven stem cell treatment or not; online marketing of these treatments in Japan and Australia, and regulations around biobanking of stem cells. 

A digital resource, containing free-to-access summaries of the articles, accompanied the special edition. Below are the summaries related to Megan’s papers but the full listing can be accessed on the EuroStemCell website.

Should I or shouldn’t I: perspectives regarding the decision-making process on stem cell treatments.

Deciphering available information, from both online and other sources, can be difficult for individuals trying to decide whether or not to travel and pay for possible stem cell treatments. Often these individuals seek out advice and guidance from others they perceive to be more knowledgeable on stem cell treatments to help them make their decisions. Interviews conducted by Dr. Claire Tanner and colleagues reveal many of the challenges and frustrations patients, carers and professionals - acting as advisors – experience. They also highlight the need to create better resources and call for one-on-one discussions to better support those contemplating alleged stem cell therapies that are yet to be shown to be safe and effective.

Summary of: ‘No one here's helping me, what do you do?’: addressing patient need for support and advice about stem cell treatments, Claire Tanner, Alan Petersen & Megan Munsie, Regenerative Medicine, Vol. 12, No. 7, 8 November 2017.

Japan and Australia’s online market for unproven stem cell treatment.

A growing number of clinics in Australia and Japan are taking advantage of the permissive stance of regulatory bodies with respect to the use of the patient’s own cells, so called autologous therapies, to offer unproven treatments to patients. Examining the websites of these clinics reveals common trends and differences between the claimed stem cell treatments, methods and uses in Japan and Australia, as well as the marketing approaches being used to attract customers.

Summary of: Open for business: a comparative study of websites selling autologous stem cells in Australia and Japan, Megan MunsieTamra Lysaght, Tereza Hendl, Hui-Yin Lynn Tan, Ian Kerridge & Cameron Stewart, Regenerative Medicine, Vol. 12, No. 7, 10 November 2017.

The future of EU privacy regulations on biobanks and iPSC research.

A key feature of the banking of human biomaterials for research in the field of regenerative medicine is the collection of associated information and data: technical details regarding cells and tissue samples, personal information about sample donors, and research datasets generated from the use of human bioresources. Balancing the need to protect the privacy of individual donors or research participants with the facilitation of effective research is an ongoing challenge. The new EU General Data Protection Regulation, while aiming to provide better safeguards for individuals’ personal data may also have significant implications for data protection practices of researchers, industry, and biobanks around the globe.

Associate Professor Megan Munsie is an Associate Investigator with Stem Cells Australia and head of our Education, Ethics, Law and Community Awareness Unit.