Pro-Lifers Hail Shift in Stem Cell Funding; Embryonic Research Starts to Fall out of Favor

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), December 4, 2013 | Go to article overview

Pro-Lifers Hail Shift in Stem Cell Funding; Embryonic Research Starts to Fall out of Favor


Byline: Cheryl Wetzstein, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Pro-life groups, which are eager to end research that destroys human embryos, are taking heart that funding decisions in two of the nation's most socially liberal states are going their way.

Money talks, said Gene Tarne, author of papers for the Charlotte Lozier Institute that find that the bulk of stem cell funding grants in California and Maryland are moving toward ethical research that doesn't use human embryos.

The shift looks like a sea change from when state funding strongly favored research from embryonic stem cells over adult stem cells, which are taken from the placenta, umbilical cord and some mature tissues and do not kill human embryos.

However, the hunt for cures for diseases, along with federal and private funding for embryonic stem cell research, virtually guarantees that embryonic stem cell research and the moral battles over it are likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

The World Stem Cell Summit this week in San Diego promises to share updates on a complete 360 view of the stem-cell field and says no type of research should be excluded.

The patient community is not so concerned about the source of the cell - it is all about developing effective treatments, said Bernard Siegel, executive director of Genetics Policy Institute in Florida, which hosts the summit.

The summit will honor South Dakota philanthropist T. Denny Sanford for his $100 million investment in a California stem cell research center. All kinds of stem cell research projects are expected to be funded at the Sanford Stem Cell Clinical Center at the University of California at San Diego.

Meanwhile, a Kansas stem cell research center that, by law, won't use stem cells culled from human embryos also is taking off.

This is the beginning, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback said Nov. 23, when the Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center held its inaugural conference. We are catching it right as the field is really starting to burgeon, he said, according to the Kansas Health Institute News Service.

The center - approved in April by the Kansas Legislature and Mr. Brownback - is a visionary move to support science that can actually lead to a lot of new therapies and potentially change the face of medicine, said Dr. Buddhadeb Dawn, director of the center, which is housed at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City.

Excluding embryonic stem cell research is not an impediment, Dr. Dawn said.

Adult stem cells are the ones that have been shown to be effective for patient treatment, he said.

The hunt for cures

Stem cells excite scientists because they are regenerative - self-renewing - and have the potential to be grown into any type of cell. This has led many people to believe stem cell therapies one day will cure or treat many conditions, including blindness, cancer, diabetes, Parkinson's disease, heart disease and spinal cord injuries.

The dispute in stem cell research is over cells taken from human embryos, the stage of human development that follows fertilization.

Some scientists view stem cells taken from human embryos as superior, master cells with vast potential for cures and therapies. But pro-life groups and their allies denounce such research because the stem cell extraction process destroys the person in embryonic form.

In 2001, President George W. Bush decided to restrict federal funding to existing embryonic stem cell lines. His opponents in California responded by promoting and winning a voter initiative to provide $3 billion over 10 years to stem cell research, especially the kind that uses human embryos.

In 2007, the newly created California Institute for Regenerative Medicine kept its promise and spent $121 million on human embryonic stem cell research. Of 100 grants the institute issued in its first year, not one went to a project that used adult stem cells, Mr. …

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