AT A GLANCE: University press team blitzes on stem cell trials

What's going on? People with injuries such as broken bones or torn cartilage could soon be treated using their own stem cells as a sort of repair kit.

The UK Stem Cell Foundation announced this week that it was helping to fund research at the University of Edinburgh into such treatment.

HOW WOULD IT ALL WORK?
Stem cells are at an early stage of their development so they can be turned into other cells that the body needs. This means they may be the answer to fractures - of which there are thought to be a million or so in the UK each year - where the bone refuses to regrow itself. Researches hope that the clinical trials could begin in as little as two years.

SO IT WAS A UK STEM CELL FOUNDATION RELEASE?
It was in name, but the university's in-house comms team in fact had a pivotal role in the media relations campaign. Tara Womersley, press officer working on comms for the university's medicine and veterinary medicine projects, put the release together.

It was signed off from the foundation and various funding bodies including Scottish Enterprise and the Medical Research Council. Womersley reports to head of comms Rob Tomlinson, while the university's director of comms and marketing is Ian Conn. The release, under embargo, was sent out to science and health correspondents and newsdesks.

WHY SEND IT TO NEWS DESKS AS WELL AS SPECIALIST JOURNALISTS?
As insurance. There was a competing specialist science story last weekend - the American Association for the Advancement of Science's annual convention in Boston - at which some specialist writers might have been, so giving the story to newsdesks was a back-up.

The Monday embargo was also seen as a way of maximising the chance of exposure, on the basis that weekend editors would be more likely to be looking for stories for Monday's paper.

AND WAS COVERAGE GOOD?
As well as the Daily Record, The Herald and The Scotsman, there was national coverage in the Daily Mail, Daily Express, Daily Mirror, The Daily Telegraph and The Times. STV and BBC Scotland also covered the story, filming case studies as well as carrying a report into the research.

Further information
www.ukscf.org
www.ed.ac.uk

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