U requests changes to stem cell policy

The U-backed letter requested updates to Bush’s stem cell research policy.

Hayley Odom

The University endorsed a June 23 letter to President George W. Bush supporting embryonic stem cell research.

The letter – sent by the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research – requests an update to the administration’s current embryonic stem cell research policy, which was implemented three years ago.

“There’s overwhelming support for this,” Academic Health Center Vice President Frank Cerra said. “I think it lets (Bush) know that this is an area of research with tremendous value.”

According to the letter, the administration thought more than 60 embryonic stem cell lines were available for research. But the National Institute of Health estimates 19 lines are available for research.

The letter states the number of readily available stem cell lines must increase in order for embryonic stem cell research to reach its full potential.

Others have also pushed for the administration to support stem cell research.

“In the beginning of June, 58 senators asked Bush to relax federal restrictions,” Cerra said. “The House of Representatives also sent a letter; there’s been Nancy Reagan’s endorsement and now this letter.”

In April, 206 members of Congress signed a letter lamenting that only 19 of the original 78 stem cell lines are available for research.

About 142 organizations – including many universities – backed the coalition’s letter. The University of Iowa and University of Wisconsin-Madison are among the endorsers.

The coalition, which is an advocacy group for the advancement of breakthrough research and technologies in regenerative medicine, collected the endorsements in 10 days.

“The support that universities and other research institutions bring to the issue of stem cells is very important,” said coalition spokesman Sean Tipton.

“It shows interest in stem cells is very strong among the most important research institutions in the country,” he said.

But not everyone agrees with the University’s endorsement.

“The University has clearly decided to pursue destructive research on human embryos,” said Dr. Steve Calvin, co-chairman of the Program in Human Rights and Medicine at the University.

“Although I understand the benevolent motives of this plan, the University of Minnesota has not addressed the existing state law prohibiting the use of human embryos for research,” he said.

Minnesota legislators introduced competing bills in support and opposition to stem cell research this spring.

Cerra said the University continues to recruit faculty and do research on stem cells.

The University’s Stem Cell Center acquires grants, performs research, publishes research and participates in national dialogues on stem cell research, Cerra said.

“We have a very active research center that’s probably a top center in the world right now,” Cerra said.