Funding proposed for stem cell research

Chad Hamblin

Under a plan proposed by state Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, Minnesotans’ tax dollars could soon be used to pay for stem cell research at the University.

Kahn said she plans to introduce a bill in the upcoming

legislative session that would allow state money to pay for the University’s stem cell research, including work on embryonic stem cells. The bill, co-authored by Kahn and several other Democratic representatives, is largely similar to the one she introduced last year.

Kahn said the bill faced Republican opposition last time, but now she hopes party lines won’t get in the way.

“It seemed to be a partisan issue last year,” she said. “I certainly hope it will not be this year and that both parties have the same interest in what’s probably the most exciting chance to enhance health research now.”

Though still a very new science, in five to 10 years, stem cell research could help treat health problems such as cancer and diabetes, said Sarah Youngerman, spokeswoman for the University’s Stem Cell Institute.

In addition to medical advances, keeping stem cell research in the public sector and funded with public money is best, she said. That way, the public will have a say in what is “appropriate, ethical and legal” regarding the research, she said.

Kahn also said the public should keep watch over stem cell research.

“The point is, when you have public funding of something, it means you have public scrutiny and discussion,” she said. “So whatever side people are on, they should want to have a public debate on this issue.”

Still, Rep. Tim Wilkin, R-Eagan, said many legislators won’t agree with Kahn’s bill.

“She can introduce anything she wants, and I don’t think it’s gonna go anywhere,” Wilkin said.

“Basically, you don’t help people by killing other people. Healing one person doesn’t justify killing another.”

But Kahn said funding the research is the moral thing to do.

“Developing more lines for this research has nothing to do with taking away a life and does have everything to do with enhancing and preserving life,” she said.

– Hayley Odom contributed to this report.