Pro-Life Groups Gaining Ground in Stem Cell Debate

Wednesday, 04 Dec 2013 11:54 AM

By Courtney Coren

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Pro-life groups are pleased that funding for stem cell research has shifted in recent years from embryonic stem cells to adult stem cells in both liberal California and Maryland as well as funds from the federal government.

Gene Tarne, Senior Advisor of the Charlotte Lozier Institute, who tracks the money spent on stem cell research for the research arm of the Susan B. Anthony List, said that a large share of the funding for stem cell research has moved toward the "ethical" research using adult cells and away from human embryos, The Washington Times reported .

According to Tarne, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the group that issues state grants for stem cell research, gave all 100 of its 2007 grants to research stem cells derived from human embryos. But n 2012 the institute gave six out of 21 grants to embryonic stem cell research, while the remaining 15 went to non-embryonic research projects.

There is a similar trend in Maryland, where in 2007 the Maryland Stem Cell Research Commission issued 11 grants for projects using human embryos and four using adult stem cells. By contrast, in 2013, 28 non-embryonic projects were funded and only one embryonic stem cell project.

A significant amount of federal dollars, $504 million, funded non-embryonic projects — more than three times the $146.5 million that went toward research using human embryos.

Chuck Donavan, president of the Charlotte Lozier Institute, said that the shift is due to a preference in the science community for "ethical" stem cell projects.

"The best hope for rapid medical advances lies with morally unproblematic alternatives," Donovan said.

"It's a matter of starting to recognize that where all the 'return' is — especially if we're talking about helping a patient — is in adult stem cells," said David Prentice, senior fellow at the Family Research Council and Kansas adult stem cell research center advisory board member.

However, Alan Trounson, the current president of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine told The Times that the science community has not changed its position, but that "it just takes time for some stem cell types to sort of evolve into usefulness, clinically."

The World Stem Cell Summit begins Wednesday in San Diego and advocates for all types of stem cell research.

"The patient community is not so concerned about the source of the cell — it is all about developing effective treatments," said Bernard Siegel, founder and chairman of the ninth annual World Stem Cell Summit and Executive Director of the Genetics Policy Institute in Wellington, Fla. "It is no longer about the type of cell."

Siegel explained that "each cell has different uses for different purposes," and that some work better for understanding the evolution of certain diseases, while others better for cell transplants.

"We need them all," he said.

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