Stem Cell Therapy in Australia: Developments and Updates

This is Health Care Zone’s attempt to monitor the developments of stem cell research and treatments (if any) in the Land Down Under. We’ll report on scammy practitioners and clinics (if any), academic studies whether they’re promising or blah, stem cell trials and experiments by drug companies (if any), and what Australian health authorities are saying about the exciting world of stem cells and what they’re doing about the challenges this brave new world poses.

We’ll keep you posted. And come back for updates.


Cord Blood Bank in Sydney (posted 28 July 2010): Our stem-cell related quote of the day goes to Peter Littlewood, chief executive officer of the Australian Stem Cell HealthCare:

”Parents see storage as an insurance policy for the future. As science develops we would expect it would have more uses in the future. It is an area with huge potential.”

The hope that blood from umbilical cords will be useful in fighting diseases in the future has given rise to private cord blood banks where parents can store their babies’ umbilical cord blood.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald about 15,000 people have chosen to store their babies’ cord blood. How much does the storage cost? It could be as high as Australia $4000.

More from SMH:

Another 22,000 are said to have donated cord blood to public banks. Among them are 12,000 people who have donated blood to the Sydney Cord Blood Bank.

Cord blood donated to the public bank is available for use by the wider population. Cord blood stored with a private bank is for individual use.


Melbourne Stem Cell Treatment Center (published 08 August 2010): In the future, Melbourne in Australia will be an international center of stem cell therapy if, and this is a big if, the research centers in the city such as the Bernard O’Brien Institute of Microsurgery, Monash University, and Monash Medical Centre will succeed in their current stem cell-related endeavors.

According to an intriguing report by the Herald Sun, Melbourne’s research institutions are “bringing tailor-made body parts closer to reality. Made-to-order bones, heart tissue and breasts, as well as restoration of fetal kidneys and lungs, are all being touted by research centres as real possibilities.”

The Herald cites the Bernard O’Brien Institute of Micro-surgery as one of the key players in Melbourne’s bid to become a center for stem cell therapy. The Institute reportedly uses a new type of stem cell – Induced Pluripotent stem cells – to grow bone and cartilage in specific lengths and widths. It is also “looking at repairing dead heart tissue, to be implanted after a cardiac arrest, and growing a pancreas for diabetics”.

Says Institute Director Prof Wayne Morrison of their stem-cell related research:

“This is the next frontier in reconstructive surgery, trying to get the body to – as much as it can – regenerate itself after injury or deformity”.

“Stem cells have the capacity to completely renew themselves and grow specific tissue. They offer an alternative that wasn’t dreamed of before.”

Yes, indeedy! Stem cell treatment is the way of the future. It will be interesting to see if these dreams of Melbournians (Melbournites, what the heck do you call Melbourne residents?) to turn the city into an international stem cell therapy center will become a reality.

What do you think?


Australian Stem Cell Cancer Research (06 August 2010): Manipulating the environment of blood-forming stem cells is the key for them to multiply, Australian researchers discovered recently.

Stem cells multiply when placed on a unique stretchy surface called “tropoelastin” , Centenary Institute Professor John Rasko who heads the research says.