According to a recent study, a ban on human embryonic stem cell research funding is also likely to seriously harm the study of human induced pluripotent stem cells, known as iPS cells.
Unlike embryonic stem cells, which are derived from human embryos, iPS cells are re-created adult cells that are very similar to embryonic stem cells but that don’t require embryos.
The authors of the study — Jason Owen-Smith, PhD, of the University of Michigan; Jennifer McCormick of the Mayo Clinic; Mindy DeRouen, PhD, and Christopher Thomas Scott of Stanford University — found that iPS cell research and embryonic stem cell research have become complementary research tools.
Indeed, the authors write, the fields have become so intertwined that they are inseparable, which refutes the idea some had that iPS cell research could replace embryonic stem cell research. Researched together, these cell types could lead to a deeper understanding of disease than either could provide on its own.
A loss of funding for embryonic stem cell research would, then, certainly have a negative impact on iPS cell research as well.
This issue is pertinent because of recent threats to federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. In August 2010, a federal judge brought federal funding of embryonic stem cell research to a standstill based on the claim that it violates the Dickey-Wicker Amendment. In early September 2010, a three-judge panel on the appeals court suspended the judge’s ruling. A preliminary injunction temporarily halted funding for embryonic stem cell research in December 2010. On April 29 of this year, a federal appeals court voted to overturn the injunction and ruled that federal funding of embryonic stem cell research can continue for now, but the field is not out of the woods yet.
The University of Michigan, the Mayo Clinic and Stanford University School of Medicine are Research!America members.