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Dispatches from the Many Fronts of the Stem Cell Wars

Stem cells in a lab at the University of GeorgiaStem cells in a lab at the University of Georgia.
Source: AP.

No new stem cell funding will be included in the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill (S.1710). CQ reports (subscription) that Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) promptly offered an amendment removing language that he and Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA) had previously inserted to expand funding for stem cell research. There was no vote, only a removal.

This language would have allowed funding for stem cell lines created after June 15, 2007, thereby overriding the President’s executive order in which he limited federal funding for stem cell research to cell lines created before August 9, 2001.

This comes in the wake of President Bush’s veto threat which mentions the bill’s stem cell provision on its first page before it even begins to enumerate multiple other quibbles.

In other stem cell news, MedlinePlus reports that, according to a paper in the journal Cell: Stem Cell, the Oct4 protein which maintains pluripotency in embryonic stem cells is not present in adult stem cells as was previously claimed in more than 50 studies. This means that there may be many adult stems cell lines that are not as useful for research purposes as originally thought.

In spite of these federal restrictions, the states are making efforts to move ahead and fund stem cells research themselves. The Detroit News reports that shopping mall magnate A. Alfred Taubman has donated $1.4 million to Michigan Stem Cell Research & Cures which aims to educate the public about the state’s restrictive laws on stem cell research. Taubman has also promised to be a major donor if a ballot campaign goes forward for November 2008. Key quote from Taubman: “I’ve known people who I’ve seen die. Had embryonic stem cell research been around, I believe they’d be alive today.”

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