Like many researchers, UW-Madison neuroscientist Ronald Kalil would not classify himself as a very political person. He doesn’t subscribe to a specific party and tries to “keep an open mind about all sides of an issue.” His primary commitment is to cutting edge research, searching for regenerative therapies for brain injuries.
But Kahil has not been able to avoid getting pulled into a political debate. That’s because the neural cells he uses in his laboratory are derived from human embryonic stem cells.
Kalil is not alone. Many other scientists in Wisconsin find themselves uncomfortably in the midst of a political dust-up regarding embryonic stem cells. Republican candidates Scott Walker, who’s leading the polls in the race for Wisconsin governor, and Ron Johnson, who is clinging to a narrow lead in the state race for U.S. Senate, have pledged to roll back state and federal support for this research.
“None of [the scientists] want to spend an inordinate amount of time with politics, that’s not why they chose the careers they did,” says Tim Kamp, director of the UW Stem Cell & Regenerative Medicine Center. But a byproduct of the controversy surrounding embryonic stem cells has prompted many researchers, whether by choice or necessity, to get involved.
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