Concerns raised in the race for governor about embryonic stem cell research are prompting members of the industry to speak up. Republican candidate for governor Scott Walker says he wants the state to support adult stem cell research, instead of work using embryonic stem cells.
While Walker will not say if he’d support a ban on using stem cells derived from human embryos, he has said he would shift state resources away from the work in favor of studying adult stem cells if he’s elected Governor.
Researchers frequently use both types of stem cells in work on developing cures or treatments for a variety of diseases. Dr. David Gamm with the UW-Madison says both types have their benefits and limitations, but it’s important to have both available. He says much of the work being done with adult stem cells relies on the blueprint provided by embryonic cells, and placing limits on that work would only hinder research.
Dr. Tim Kamp, director of the UW’s Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Center, says work with embryonic cells has only been going for about 12 years, while adult stem cells have been used for decades. Already, he says there’s great promise in embryonic stem cell lines and cutting off that work would only restrict scientific progress.
Wisconsin does not directly fund any stem cell research. However, the state has provided grants and other incentives to help companies working on stem cell technologies open facilities in Wisconsin. The UW-Madison is also a key location in the research community, with a portion of the work supported by state dollars.
Other states, such as California, have directed billions of dollars trying to attract companies within their borders. Elizabeth Donley, CEO of Madison-based Stemina Biomarker Discovery, says they’ve been approached by other states to move their offices out of Wisconsin. While she says they have no plans to relocate, other companies and researchers could easily decide to go where money and support are readily available.
Democratic candidate for governor, Tom Barrett, says the state should continue supporting all types of stem cell research.