Stem cell therapy using tissue stem cells has been in routine use since the 1970s! The most well-established and widely used stem cell treatment is the transplantation of blood stem cells to treat diseases and conditions of the blood and immune system, or to restore the blood system after treatments for specific cancers, for example, leukaemia. Bone marrow transplants are able to replace a patient’s diseased blood system for life, thanks to the properties of blood stem cells.
The late Professor Donald Metcalf, AC, who transformed cancer treatment and transplantation medicine paved the way for stem cell therapy in the treatment of leukaemia and many other conditions. Don Metcalf’s research on blood cell formation led directly to the development of bone marrow transplantation. This treatment is used worldwide every day, and has saved many thousands of lives. Each year the NSCFA celebrates Professor Metcalf’s achievement with The Annual Metcalf Prize. This prize of $50,000 is awarded to the brightest mid-career female and male Australian stem cell researcher.
Stem cells are seen as a key tool in the future of medicine, for their abilities to regenerate damaged tissue, replace missing tissue and repair the effects of disease or injury. Experimental stem cell therapy is being developed for many common diseases, including blindness, stroke, arthritis, multiple sclerosis and heart attacks.
Important research is being undertaken by reputable hospital, biotechnology and university groups in Australia and around the world. However, it is still early days, and some private non-academic organisations and individual practitioners are offering stem cell treatments that have not been shown to be effective and have not been proven to be safe. If you’d like to help Australian researchers progress stem cell treatments, donate to the NSCFA because that’s exactly the work we support.