The following report was written by Drs Heather Main and Michael O’Connor and was first posted on the EuroStem Blog on 19 December 2012.
Stem cells in Sydney
On Sunday 9 December, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney hosted the Australian premiere of the film ‘Stem Cell Revolutions’. The film screening was followed by a lively discussion between members of the public and scientists from Sydney research institutes and major Australian stem cell institutions.
This award-winning film, produced by Amy Hardie and Clare Blackburn from EuroStemCell, previously won Best Documentary at the Vedera la Scienze festival 2012. The film relates the history of stem cell science as told through the eyes of leading international stem cell scientists. It tracks the discovery of stem cells and evolution of the field, through to modern day personalised medicine applications. In a world where technology moves so quickly and promises of miracle cures tempt the vulnerable, the film takes the viewer on the journey of the very scientists who have made major discoveries in stem cell research, together with the repercussions arising from the application and regulation of these technologies.
The film screening was followed by a question and answer discussion which gave the opportunity for members of the public to ask anything they had ever wanted to know about stem cells and where they stand in Australia and the world. The distinguished panel represented a comprehensive range of Sydney research institutes and major Australian stem cell institutions, and consisted of Dr Michael Morris (University of Sydney, ASSCR Secretary, and NSW Stem Cell Network), Dr Janet Macpherson (RPA Hospital), Assoc. Prof. Kuldip Sidhu (UNSW), Dr Alexis Bosman (Victor Chang Cardiac Institute and Stem Cells Australia) and Dr Michael O’Connor (University of Western Sydney, ASSCR Vice President). The questions were many and varied, and created a stimulating personal and scientific discussion between the panel and members of the public interested in stem cell technologies in Australia.
The hot topics of discussion included regulation of stem cell technologies in Australia, the issues of transplantation of umbilical cord stem cells and stem cell tourism. In particular the topic of stem cell tourism opened up for discussion issues including how to determine if a clinic is safe and reputable, but also how a country’s legislation both positively and negatively affects their scientists’ ability to do research and apply the results in a clinical setting. With the majority of the audience in the older age bracket the event provided a useful platform for transmission of information for patients: what is available, what is possible and what you should look out for. It is only with good communication between the scientists and the public that we can all reap the maximum benefits of research, and events like this provide an example of how to open up this communication.
The success of the event makes future collaboration with the Museum of Contemporary Art highly likely, to further bring Art, Science and Society closer together.
More information on stem cell therapies or stem cell tourism is available from the Stem Cells Australia or Australian Society for Stem Cell Research websites.
This event was sponsored by Veolia Environmental Services, The Museum of Contemporary Art and Stem Cells Australia.