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October 19, 2004
CA Prop 71 to Commit $3bill to Stem Cell Research
Read more... Schizophrenia Biology
On Nov 2, California residents will vote on Prop 71, a contraversial but powerful measure that would commit $3 billion dollars of state money to ten years of stem cell (including embryonic stem cell) research.
Given the current federal ban on either creating new embryos or destroying existing frozen ones to obtain new stem cell populations, passing Prop 71 would place California miles ahead of any other state in the nation with respect to stem cell research.
Nerve cell bodies in the central nervous system (which includes the brain and the spinal cord) do not spontaneously regenerate in human beings, severely limiting the treatment options for those who have lost central nervous system cell populations due to spinal injuries, Alzheimer's disease, stroke, or similarly debilitating condtions. However, embryonic stem cells retain the special, short-lived potential to become any type of cell, depending on what chemical signals it recieves from its environment. The hope of stem cell research is that embryonic stem cells injected into damaged areas of the human brain and spinal cord will respond and become new, viable areas of nerve tissue, effectively replacing what was lost due to illness or injury.
Stem cell therapy has more potential to successfully treat conditions such as Parkinson's or paralysis, in which nerve tissue merely has to be replaced. For diseases such as Alzheimer's, in which replacement nerve cells would also have to make specific connections with other, existing cells in the brain, the problem becomes much more complicated.
Yet stem cell research still holds promise for complex brain diseases like Alzheimer's, or even schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. By using a technique called "therapeutic cloning", or "nuclear transfer", scientists can insert the genetic material from a stem cell into an egg, and then induce that egg to develop into an embryo with a specific genetic makeup. Scientists could potentially create embryonic stem cell lines from the genetic material of people with brain diseases, cells which could then be studied without fear of harming a person. Access to such engineered cell lines could dramatically advance the understanding of what causes complex brain diseases, and possibly bring about better treatments or preventions in the future.
Source: Los Angeles Times, Oct 17 2004.
Headline: Stem Cell Debate Focuses on Morality and Money; Prop. 71 would commit $3 billion to seeking cures for severe maladies using human embryos.
To learn more about stem cells, stem cell research, and the potential that such research holds for future therapies and the advancement of science, please see the NIH Stem Cell Basics website (http://stemcells.nih.gov/info/basics/).
Posted by Julia at October 19, 2004 02:02 AM
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