Tissue donors play integral role in medical innovation

24 August 2016
University and medical researchers are at the forefront to drive innovation but without the generosity of tissue donation it would not be possible.

Professor Catherine Waldby, a sociologist from The Australian National University (ANU), said that highlighting the generosity of people who participated in medical research was important.

"Tissue donations are very important for innovation in medicine because if you don't have the material you can't do the basic research," said Professor Waldby, Director of the ANU Research School of Sciences.

"It may not by itself help create a treatment but scientists need the basic biology before they can think about clinical applications."

Professor Waldby will deliver a talk on Tissue donors and their role in medical innovation on Monday 29 August as part of The John Curtin School of Medical Research Director's Health through Discovery public lecture series.

"It is easy to forget that medical research needs willing participants to undergo clinical trials and to donate living materials, tissues, blood and genetic material so that innovative research can take place," she said.

Professor Waldby said clinics, hospitals and research facilities needed to obtain fully informed consent from the person.

Historically, it was assumed that a person agreed that any material removed in a surgical procedure that was no longer needed was the hospital's property to use or dispose of as they saw fit.

"Increasingly people are not only agreeing but participating in quite active kinds of ways to help advance medical research," Professor Waldby said.

Professor Waldby will present an overview of her research on social aspects of tissue donations for medical research, particularly in the area of embryo and egg donation for stem cell research, and the complex decisions that women and couples related to tissue donations.

In 2013, an estimated 120,000 embryos were in frozen storage in Australia. About 10 per cent of couples with embryos in storage state that they would be prepared to donate them.

To register, email Dr Madeleine Nicol from The John Curtin School of Medical Research at madeleine.nicol@anu.edu.au