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Archive for Friday, January 12, 2007

KU scientists hope bill passes, increasing funds

January 12, 2007

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Stem cell research Enlarge video

Kansas University scientists whose research involves human stem cells crossed their fingers Thursday, hoping that a bill boosting federal support of embryonic stem cell research could survive.

"I get so many e-mails from people who have sick children, who have sick mothers or fathers," said Kathy Mitchell, KU assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology. "They're asking for help. There are so many people who want this help, who are desperate."

Mitchell is among a handful of KU researchers, on KU's Lawrence campus and at Kansas University Medical Center, working with human stem cells.

Though opponents of embryonic stem cell research say it is immoral because it destroys human life, KU researchers say it can lead to new treatments and save lives.

Mitchell said she receives many e-mails because many people don't know where else to turn to battle the ailments they or their loved ones face.

"They find me on the Internet and they're desperate," she said. "It's really quite heartbreaking."

Mitchell's research does not involve embryonic stem cells, but human umbilical cord matrix cells, taken from umbilical cords that otherwise would be thrown away. Her research ultimately could lead to treatments for many problems, including osteoarthritis and acute renal failure.

Mitchell said it's not just embryonic stem cells that require focus, but all stem cell research needs to be fully funded.

"Just like there's not just one drug that treats every disease ... we'll find that there are different types of stem cells that work better for different types of diseases," she said.

At KUMC, researcher Kenneth Peterson uses approved human embryonic stem cells to study the molecular basis for sickle cell disease and beta thalassemia, an inherited blood disorder.

Peterson, associate professor in the department of biochemistry and molecular biology, said the proposed legislation is necessary because it would open up federally funded research to new stem cell lines beyond those now available to federally funded researchers. He said many of the lines currently approved are unusable for possible therapeutics.

"The ultimate goal that we all have is to cure disease using these stem cells," he said. "When we're restricted to only a few approved lines, our ability to study something in more of a true setting ... is compromised."


The Proposal

Under the existing policy, federal funds may be used to study only those stem cells taken from embryos destroyed by Aug. 9, 2001 - or about 21 of the nearly 400 stem cell colonies created since 1998. The House-based bill would expand that pool of available cells to include those from any of the thousands of embryos that are discarded by fertility clinics each year.

Comments

jafs 7 years, 11 months ago

I saw an article recently that claimed we can use amniotic fluid instead of fetal cells - wouldn't this solve the moral dilemma? According to the article, using amniotic fluid posed no danger to either the mother or the fetus.

b_asinbeer 7 years, 11 months ago

I read the same article and it said that there was a risk of causing damage to the fetus.

yourworstnightmare 7 years, 11 months ago

An amniocentesis procedure does indeed carry a risk to the mother and fetus, as does every single medical procedure.

I'm surprised at the ignorance, because "medical risk" is always invoked by the anti-science crowd when egg extraction for in vitro fertilization and ES cell generation is the topic of discussion.

What Dr. Mitchell said was correct, that different stem cell sources each have their own particular characteristics. One does not replace the other. Embryonic stem cells and amnio stem cells will both be important and play roles in this effort to alleviate human suffering.

MyName 7 years, 11 months ago

I saw an article recently that claimed we can use amniotic fluid instead of fetal cells - wouldn't this solve the moral dilemma?

I think the risks to mother and child are relatively low, however the results are inconclusive with regards to whether these stem cells would be a complete substitute for embryonic stem cells in every case. It could be a replacement for them in some instances, so it could be a way out of this situation, but we don't know for sure yet.

Curious 7 years, 11 months ago

I don't understand why there isn't private funding for embryonic stem cell research. Private funding is available for adult stem cells. And cures are being found. Private money chases risky but potential research. Why not this?

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