Focus on Embryonic Stem Cell Research May Damage Other Scientific Pursuits

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 23, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Focus on Embryonic Stem Cell Research May Damage Other Scientific Pursuits Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 23, 2004

Madison, WI ( — There’s an old saying in Congress — a billion here, a billion there and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.

California voters recently approved a $6 billion measure to fund embryonic stem cell research and human cloning, New Jersey is spending taxpayer dollars for the unproven research and Wisconsin’s is governor looking to add $750 million to the equation. Other states are hoping to hope on the bandwagon.

That concerns some scientists who say that the pursuit of embryonic stem cell research and the money it’s receiving — thanks to national attention and debate — is taking away from "real money" that should be going to other kinds of research.

In Wisconsin, Alzheimer’s researchers are feeling slighted by the attention Governor Jim Doyle is heaping on embryonic stem cell research, which has yet to cure a single patient after more than two decades of study.

Of the $750 million Doyle is proposing, research on Alzheimer’s that does not employ stem cells is set to receive just $1.5 million.

Dr. Jeff Johnson, a scientist at the University of Wisconsin, says his team has had a recent breakthrough in study that has nothing to do with stem cells.

"We have big goals and a little bit of data right now, but it’s very encouraging," the research professor told Channel 3000.

Dr. Johnson published a study two months ago showing that proteins in mice can slow down or event stop the progression of Alzheimer’s.

For Alzheimer’s patients, stem cell research is not likely going to fund a cure for the disease. Scientists at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Georgia have said the disease is too complex to be affected by stem cells. They’re looking to other kinds of research to make an impact.

Even Ron Reagan, who gave a nationally watched speech at the Democratic convention this summer, has admitted that the disease that afflicted his presidential father will not likely benefit.

That’s why Dr. Johnson says he hopes the focus on stem cell research won’t take away from the work his team has conducted.

"Hopefully, what we’ll find is the people of Wisconsin support this and the people of Wisconsin will be the first to benefit from this through clinical trials," said Johnson.

He said he expects clinical trials to begin in three to five years on his current work.