December 4, 2023

Stem cell initiatives advance in US state legislatures

A number of American states are playing catch-up now that California stem-cell scientists have a US$300 million-a-year kitty for their research. In Washington state, the lower house has passed a bill endorsing stem cell research, after emotional pleas from both sides. In Massachusetts, supporters of embryonic stem cell research have formed a coalition to lobby the government. Recent polls there appear to show that most voters support the controversial science.

Harvard University has also approved cloning human embryos for research led by scientists Kevin Eggan and Douglas Melton. If Massachusetts legalises the research, their experiments will proceed. The Provost, Dr Steven Hyman, said that Harvard had taken passionate objections to embryo cloning into consideration. “The university acknowledges that a blastocyst holds a special moral status for many,” he said. “Therefore we should accord it appropriate respect by ensuring that it is only used for [important] research.”

In neighbouring Connecticut, scientists from Yale and the University of Connecticut have demanded US$100 million a year, five times more than the $20 million, two-year initiative proposed by the governor. Yale scientists must be convinced “that there’s a high likelihood of long-term money,” commented the dean of Yale School of Medicine, Dr Robert Alpern. Otherwise, “you’re always at the whim of governments changing their minds.”