The National Stem Cell foundation of Australia (NSCFA) was established in mid-2011 as the follow-on organisation from the Australian Stem Cell Centre. It is a public company limited by guarantee (ABN: 84 152 713 098) that has been endorsed by the ATO as a charitable body with deductible gift recipient status.
Its mission is to promote the study and use of stem cells in the prevention or control of disease in human beings and to enhance public education in this field.
Why was the NSCFA set up?
The NSCFA was established by the Australian Stem Cell Centre to carry on the work that the Centre started. When the Centre had reached the end of its Government funding cycle, it was essential the money raised continued to be directed towards stem cell research and public education. The NSCFA was set up to continue to fund the development of stem cell technology, and increase public awareness.
Our aims are to:
- Provide resources for the Australian public on stem cell technology and regenerative medicine including its risks, achievements, benefits and overall technical progress.
- Pursue cures for, as yet untreatable diseases, using stem cell technology and regenerative medicine. This is reached by supporting research activities in these areas.
We achieve these aims by pursuing charitable purposes only, and using donations received to promote these activities.
What are stem cells?
The Foundation supports research and education in all types of stem cells. There are three broad groups. Adult Stem Cells (ASC) are found in most organs in the body. Embryonic Stem Cells (ESC) are found in early embryos. Induced Pluripotent Stem cells (iPSC) are genetically modified ASC, which is explained further below.
Stem cells are with us right through to adulthood as part of the process to repair aging or damaged tissues. The most important characteristic of ESC, compared to ASC, is their ability to turn into all the tissues of the body, called “pluripotency”. Recently genetic modification of mature adult cells has allowed them to become like embryonic stem cells. These cells are called induced pluripotent stem cells.
Why is stem cell research important?
1. Treating illnesses
Stem cells found in bone marrow have been in use for 40 years to replace cells destroyed by high dose chemotherapy in a variety of cancers and blood diseases.
Because stem cells can create new tissues, they promise new treatments for conditions like spinal cord injury, where they may replace nerve cells destroyed in accidents, restoring the ability to walk and move the arms. Another example is strokes, where brain stem cells are important in restoring function after loss of brain tissue. They are also in advanced clinical trials for degenerative conditions like arthritis, macular degeneration, which causes blindness in an increasing number of people, and diabetes.
There is early evidence that scientific knowledge gained from studying stem cells could provide a completely new approach to treating cancers.
2. Working out how important illnesses are caused
Stem cells can be altered to behave like abnormal cells found in illnesses. Cancer is a prime example. Scientists can use actual human cells to study conditions that could previously only be approached using animals. New techniques such as Induced Pluripotent Stem cells (iPSC) enable scientists to study diseases in cells derived from the patient’s own faulty cells.
3. Understanding fundamental functions of living cells
Stem cells kept under the right conditions are immortal - they can be maintained forever. They therefore provide a unique medium for observing in depth the way living cells develop, work and repair themselves. Understanding the basic biology of stem cells is opening the doors to a vast field of new and vital research. This research drives the search for new cures for diseases that up to now have been difficult or impossible to treat effectively.
How good is Australian stem cell research?
Australia’s scientists have been at the forefront of stem cell research since stem cells were first identified. The Australian Research Council funds Stem Cells Australia, a consortium of our leading stem cell research departments led by Professor Martin Pera, a global leader in the field. Australian scientists hold senior positions on international scientific committees and conference organisations.
How can I help Australia’s stem cell research efforts?
Donations to the NSCFA are fully tax deductible and are used solely to promote the Foundation’s aims. In addition, as the Foundation develops, we’ll be involving the community together with stem cell scientists to make sure we know what you see as the pressing needs for new treatments.
How does the Foundation decide how to spend its funds?
We have extremely close relations with Australia’s stem cell research scientists and work inconjunction with the largest stem cell research organisation, Stem Cells Australia. This ensures we’re up to date with what’s at the forefront of stem cell research. Targets for research support are decided by an expert scientific panel, and education and information projects in conjunction with the Education, Ethics, Law and Community Awareness Unit at Stem Cells Australia.
How do I know my donation is going to a worthy cause?
The NSCFA is governed by a board of directors who have many years of experience in the fields of medical research, biotechnology and governance. The board of the NSCFA all donate their time as they passionately believe that this technology can ultimately relieve pain and suffering for countless people in the future, and that Australian scientists have a critical role to play in the development of the technology.