Missouri Stem Cell Researcher’s Work in Doubt as Cloning Vote Nears

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 2, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Missouri Stem Cell Researcher’s Work in Doubt as Cloning Vote Nears Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
November 2
, 2006

Jefferson City, MO (LifeNews.com) — Missouri’s preeminent human embryonic stem cell researcher is under fire for studies that a leading scientific journal says "may not be reliable." University of Missouri-Columbia scientist R. Michael Roberts is under investigation from the college but if the pro-human cloning Amendment 2 is approved that probe may be halted.

Roberts and three other UMC scientists published a paper in the journal Science in February regarding embryonic stem cell research in mice.

They claimed that when the mouse embryo divided, the two cells take different paths, with one becoming a mouse embryo and the other becoming a placenta.

However, the journal says the research may not be correct and independent studies have not been able to duplicate it, according to a report in the Columbia Daily Tribune newspaper.

Last Friday, Science issued an "editorial expression of concern" with Roberts’ work and the only other time it has published a similar editorial came when South Korean scientist Hwang Woo-suk’s research team falsified all of its embryonic stem cell research studies.

Katrina Kelner, the magazine’s deputy editor for life sciences, told the newspaper about the editorial and said other scientists "found enough evidence that they thought a full investigation was warranted."

"On the basis of what they told us, we felt it important to inform the scientific community," she added. "We want to prevent people from building on this work when they should not or citing it in papers they write or basing their experiments on this."

Now, Roberts is coming under investigation from UMC and Rob Hall, the campus research integrity officer, told the paper the college has started looking into the matter after the scientists informed them of the potential problems.

However, Sam Lee of Campaign Life Missouri, a pro-life organization, tells LifeNews.com that the probe may not be able to continue if state residents back Amendment 2.

"If Amendment 2 passes, attempts by the University of Missouri (a state institution) or state officials to investigate and restrict the stem cell research activities of Prof. Roberts and others would be prohibited,’ Lee explained.

That’s because this would be "governmental action" which could "prevent, restrict, obstruct, or discourage any stem cell research or stem cell therapies and cures" or which could "create disincentives for any person to engage in or otherwise associate with such research or therapies and cures" — something the amendment prohibits.

Lee said the investigation is another reason why state voters should reject Amendment 2.