The development of stem cell research has opened up the possibilities for their use to regenerate and repair damaged organs or tissue in the human body. This could potentially lead to therapies for a wide range of conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. However, this capability also raises ethical questions of how and when it should be used, particularly regarding cosmetic treatments and it being used to pursue private, rather than public, interests.
In 2007, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Medical Research Council commissioned a public dialogue, supported by the Sciencewise programme, which explored public attitudes towards the use of stem cells.
The process involved deliberative, public dialogue workshops held in five locations, with each workshop group meeting three times. A total of 200 public participants were recruited.
The dialogue project was run by TNS-BMRB, with Demos and the University of East Anglia. The initial literature review and stakeholder workshop was run by OPM. The project was evaluated by the University of Nottingham.
The dialogue informed future policy from the Department of Health on cord blood banking, was used as a form of ‘social intelligence’ by the BBSRC Bioscience for Society Panel, and was used to make recommendations to the BBSRC Strategy Advisory Board.