Submission from Alzheimer Scotland
Alzheimer Scotland surveyed members
and staff in 2005; a majority support stem cell and animal research
into the causes and treatment of dementia.
Stem cells are a vital avenue in
Alzheimer Scotland believes that
it is vital for the creation of hybrid and chimera embryos for
research purposes to be allowed where this is necessary and the
work could not be carried out without the use of embryos.
We are in agreement with the strong
regulatory framework which already applies to work involving human
We strongly oppose the Government's
proposal not to allow the creation of hybrid and chimera embryos
until some future time; this would cause unacceptable delay to
the progress of dementia research.
1.1 Dementia is a devastating illness, which
affects 65,000 people in Scotland at present, and 750,000 in the
UK as a whole. As the population ages, the number of people with
dementia is forecast to double in just over 30 years' time, by
2038. It is vital that every effort is made to find ways of preventing,
postponing, treating or curing dementia, for the benefit both
of those diagnosed and of society, which will otherwise be faced
with the problem of providing care.
1.2 Stem cell research is an important avenue
to pursue in the search for a better understanding of Alzheimer's
disease and other forms of dementia, and how they can be treated.
Therapeutic cloning has the potential to provide a supply of embryonic
stem cells with the genetic makeup of diseases such as hereditary
forms of dementia, so as to study the genetics and biochemistry
of the disease, and stems cells can be used to produce large numbers
of cells which are hard to obtain in other ways, in order to test
1.3 More basic research is also needed,
in order to understand:
how to get a pure sample of stem
cells out of the mixture of cell types in an organ such as a brain;
whether multipotent stem cells, which
are limited to forming only a few types of new cell, can be persuaded
to become pluripotent, with full potential to make every kind
how to persuade stem cells to make
the kind of new cells that are needed;
how to persuade new stem cells to
go to the areas where they are neededin most kinds of dementia,
the damage in the brain is not limited to one area;
how to get the new cells to work
with other brain cells; and
how to make sure that stem cells
don't keep on making too many cells, causing cancer.
1.4 Hybrid and chimera embryos have the
potential to contribute to many of these areas of work.
1.5 As research progresses, stem cells may
become important in the treatment of dementia:
to get the stem cells already naturally
present in the brain to replace the cells destroyed by dementia;
to put new stem cells into the brain
and get them to replace the cells destroyed by dementia.
2. RESPONSE TO
2.1 Alzheimer Scotland carried out a large-scale
survey of its members and staff in 2005 to gauge attitudes towards
stem cell, including that involving human embryos, and to animal
2.2 The majority (76%) of respondents felt
that the use of human embryos in dementia research was acceptable,
with 83% agreeing with the use of donated embryos donated by couples
having fertility treatment. There was less support (43%) for the
use of therapeutic cloning to create a human embryo, with 22%
responding "don't know".
2.3 There was also a majority (73%) supporting
the use of animals, where necessary, in dementia research.
2.4 The use of hybrid or chimera embryos
would allow more research to be done with less reliance on human
eggs, and could go some way to addressing the ambivalence expressed
by our membership towards therapeutic cloning of human embryos.
2.5 Alzheimer Scotland therefore believes
that it is vital for the creation of hybrid and chimera embryos
for research purposes to be allowed where this is necessary and
the work could not be carried out without the use of embryos.
We are in agreement with the strong regulatory framework which
already applies to work involving human embryos and in particular
the hybrid and chimera embryos being destroyed after 14 days.
We support the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority extending
its responsibilities to include hybrid or chimera embryos.
2.6 Alzheimer Scotland strongly opposes
the Government's proposal not to allow the creation of hybrid
and chimera embryos until some future time; this would cause unacceptable
delay to the progress of dementia research.
3.1 Alzheimer Scotland supports scientific
endeavours to increase understanding of the causes of dementia
and seek effective treatments for it.
3.2 Stem cell research is a welcome new
avenue for scientists to explore in addition to existing areas
of study, and we believe that research in the area, including
the use of hybrid and chimera embryos, must be allowed to progress
with careful regulation, to ensure that the best possible effort
is made to find ways to prevent, alleviate or treat the illness
in the future.
3.3 We would be happy to provide any further
information that the Committee would like.