Last Fall’s mid-term election brought into office several new Republican Governors who during their campaigns used strong, anti-embryonic stem (ES) cell research rhetoric.
For example, then candidate for Governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker (now the Governor) used some of the strongest language, which was ironic considering that human ES cells were first produced in Wisconsin by Jamie Thomson and Wisconsin has a strong ES cell research community both in academia and industry. Just today there was an article questioning whether Walker will hamper the development of emerging technologies in Wisconsin such as stem cells.
Also today the news came out that Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia is trying to scuttle potentially life-saving and life-changing ES cell research in that state. McDonnell is trying to get legislation passed that would bar state funding of ES cell research, a move that could severely hamper ES cell research even if it is federally funded since the state provides infrastructure funding that would be used to support the research.
ES cell research remains critically important. It has far more promise than adult stem cell research. Adult stem cells have limited potential and conclusively cannot grow in the manner needed to build new tissues. So-called iPS cells, which are ES-like cells made artificially in a lab, are likely to be very important tools for the future and my own research lab studies them, but just yesterday yet another study came out that we blogged about here indicating that iPS cells have many abnormalities and differences from ES cells, almost certainly limiting their usefulness. The bottom line is that iPS cells are likely going to be critically important, but they cannot replace ES cells.
What these Republican Governors as well as Republican legislators in the U.S. Congress need to realize is that funding of ES cell research is a non-partisan issue and has nothing to do with abortion. ES cells come from left over clumps of cells created by IVF procedures, microscopic few day old embryos that would otherwise be discarded.
ES cell research holds the greatest promise to cure many of the most devastating and costly diseases including Alzheimer’s, Spinal Cord Injury, Heart Disease, and others. These diseases cost America trillions of dollars. These diseases are also equal opportunity inflictors of suffering upon both Republicans and Democrats alike. Funding stem cell research is a money-saver for the states and also more generally for America both in the short and long term. It is an investment in America that if we choose not to make, will leave us as a country not in our current leadership position in stem cell research, but as a follower in this area to other countries such as Japan, China, and many countries in Europe that are eager to take the lead.
Let your representatives know you support funding ES cell research.