March 5, 2024

Stem cell initiative passes in Michigan

But are the days of embryonic stem cell research numbered?

The red-hot political controversy which surrounded stem cell research during
the Bush Administration seems to be cooling rapidly. In only one state,
Michigan, were voters asked to decide on the future of embryo research. They
approved it by a margin of 53% to 47%. Now Michigan scientists will be able to
use surplus IVF embryos as sources of stem cells, provided that they have
obtained consent from the parents. Ten states now have laws permitting embryonic
stem cell research.

However, embryonic stem cells as a way of obtaining cures may be a cul de
sac. Many of the major figures in the field, including the American scientist
who first created human embryonic stem cells, James Thomson, of the University
of Wisconsin-Madison, have shifted the focus of their work to reprogrammed stem
cells which had little ethical baggage and are easier to work with.

Legalising research on IVF embryos may do little to help employment in
rust-belt states like Michigan. The ultimate result may not be cures, but
securing Federal funding for research on embryros.