A paper released today in Cell studies the growth of the field of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell research and how it has been affected by both political and judicial interventions. Researchers at Stanford analyzed papers published on both human iPS and embryonic stem (hES) cells to see if the advent of iPS cells “had modified the trajectory of stem cell research.” Their conclusion was a resounding “no”; rather, they found that the majority of studies using iPS cells were done in conjunction with corresponding experiments done using hES cells, indicating that the two cell types were being used as “complementary, interdependent research tools.” The paper also highlighted how “restrictions, regulatory uncertainty and spurious court decisions have undoubtedly retarded progress in the pluripotent stem cell field,” ultimately concluding that “a ban on funding for embryonic stem cell research could have unexpected negative ramifications on the nascent field of” human iPS cell research.
More encouraging news came earlier this week, when Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., hosted a symposium on embryonic stem cell research at Northwestern University. Praising stem cell research as “the best promise to cure juvenile diabetes and certain blood cancers,” Kirk pledged his support for legislation that would codify the National Institutes of Health Guidelines on Human Stem Cell Research into law. “If senior Democratic Senators choose not to move this legislation in this Congress, I will,” vowed Kirk, who as a member of the House of Representatives voted in support of both the 2005 and 2007 versions of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act that were ultimately vetoed by President Bush. Rep. Dianna DeGette, D-Colo., who sponsored both of the earlier bills, has not introduced a new version of the bill in the current Congress.
ASBMB has made, and will continue to make, support for legislation that promotes embryonic stem cell research a top priority during visits with congressional legislators. We will be working with our partners at the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology to offer our support to Sen. Kirk in his efforts.