Stem cell research advances in Michigan, raising hopes for new cures
The University of Michigan, aided by passage of a 2008 state ballot proposal and $100 million pledged from shopping mall pioneer A. Alfred Taubman, has become the state’s leader in embryonic stem cell research. That's raising the hopes of many residents for cures for debilitating or fatal diseases, the Detroit Free Press reports in a Sunday series.
U-M is focused on lines bearing diseases to help researchers study how genetics take hold in developing tissues. While there are no guarantees, and research funding in Michigan has lagged behind other states, stem cells may hold the keys for developing cures for everything from common depression to genetic cancer and strokes.
It took about a year after voters in 2008 approved Proposal 2, a controversial measure that removed restrictions on embryonic stem cell research in Michigan, for U-M to fully develop its research apparatus. The university had to finalize protocols for ensuring donor consent and confidentiality, set up labs, transferring funds and, finally, receiving embryos.
Gary Smith, co-director at the A.A. Taubman Consortium for Stem Cell Therapies at U-M, last week submitted his 11th and 12th embryonic stem cell lines to the National Institutes of Health. They’ll add to 10 lines submitted and accepted earlier this year to a national registry filled with lines from contributors around the country.
Placement in the registry means the lines can now be sent to labs across the U.S. for use in federally funded research. Smith told the Free Press that U-M is finalizing agreements to share its stem cell lines with about two dozen researchers elsewhere.
The first grants are expected to be announced in the coming weeks to help U-M researchers use the newly derived lines for research or to create new ones. The university may also launch a program next summer to train high school teachers on stem cell science in a bid to get students interested in the field.
Read the Free Press series here.