Monday, November 22, 2004

California's proposition 71 on stem cell research


Irving Weissman, director of Stanford’s new Institute for Cancer/Stem Cell Biology and Medicine, already is looking for Prop. 71 money to fund the institute’s facility, now slated to be one floor in a planned four-floor medical school building. That space will house eight institute faculty and 20 to 30 additional collaborators. The mere existence of the new funds will make it easier to lure scientists to the institute. “When I go to recruit people who are devoting their lives to this research, they’re having trouble funding their work,” Weissman remarked. “If I said to them, ‘In California you can apply for grants that will cover your full expenses,’ that would be very appealing.”


Palmer added that curing disease is the most talked about but perhaps least important aspect of embryonic stem cell work. Creating new lines from people with genetic diseases would let researchers study how and why cells carrying these mutations become diseased. “With this work we could think about preventing the disease before it starts,” he said.

Creating these new lines requires a technique called somatic cell nuclear transfer, which Palmer said he’s eager to use in his lab. “I can’t do SCNT now because I don’t have a history of that research,” he said, and he can’t get federal funding to do it. With Prop. 71 ending the financial barrier he said that one good postdoctoral fellow could seed his lab with the cell lines needed to study the genetics of Parkinson’s and other diseases.

[cross-reference: WARF]


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