Arthritis Researchers Ask for General Public’s Help

Apr 24 2012 Posted: 15:10 IST

The general public is being invited to engage with scientists at NUI Galway to provide their opinions on stem cells and gene therapy. Scientists hope to explore public opinion on these and other cutting-edge biomedical solutions under development, and learn what the public’s point of view is.

As part of the EU-funded GAMBA project, the University is specifically looking for people who would like to learn about adult stem cell and gene therapy approaches, and who are willing to evaluate theses approaches from a lay person’s point of view. No technical or scientific knowledge is needed, just a willingness to participate over two weekends in May and June 2012.

Ideally, participants should be resident in Galway or the neighbouring counties and must be at least 18 years old. The closing date for application is Friday, 4 May.

The specific focus of the research associated with this project is osteoarthritis and the opinion of the people suffering from this debilitating disease was already sought in a very successful patient panel which was held in March this year.

For the public consultation project, which is organised by the Institute for Regenerative Medicine (REMEDI) at NUI Galway, participants will be introduced to the topics of innovative basic research into a novel osteoarthritis therapy based on gene therapy, stem cell research and nanomedicine.

“We are really hoping to engage with people who are broadly interested in stem cell or gene therapy generally and the potential use of these technologies for treating diseases in the future. What risks and ethical aspects are associated with such visions? How should such therapies be regulated? Should these therapies be available in Ireland? These are just some of the questions we want to discuss”, said Dr Mary Murphy, REMEDI, NUI Galway.

Dr Murphy added: “New therapy approaches usually don’t come to the attention of patients and society until they are tested in clinical trials or once the products are launched on the market. This project is taking a very innovative approach by involving the general public at a very early stage. We as scientists need to stop and listen to what the everyday person has to say, and we can learn from their insights. We learnt so much from our earlier session with arthritis suffers and I hope members of the general public will be able to help this time round by giving of their time.”

All the sessions will be supported by an experienced team of moderators, who will ensure that the information supplied is comprehensible. Importantly, the reports generated by the patients and citizens themselves at the end of the four-day process will be published and disseminated to the relevant authorities, researchers and politicians.

As part of the GAMBA project (Gene Activated Matrices for Bone and Cartilage Regeneration in Arthritis) researchers at REMEDI are involved in developing new methods for the treatment of osteoarthritis. In collaboration with nine partner institutions from Germany, France, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands and Switzerland, researchers in REMEDI hope it might be possible to heal diseased joints in 10 to 20 years. This would be done by introducing a combination of biomaterials, stem cells harvested from the patient, gene vectors and nanoparticles directly into the diseased tissue.

“Our hope is”, explains Dr Murphy, “that these enriched biomaterials could make a regeneration of the joints possible.”

Participants will be given a gratuity of €50 and are invited to apply before Friday, 4 May. The application form and further information are available online  or can be requested on 091 494276.  The main website for the project is



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