A statement on the announced breakthrough in human embryonic stem cell research:

Based on separate reports published in Cell and Science, scientists in Wisconsin and Japan have turned human skin cells into what appear to be embryonic stem cells — without having to make or destroy an embryo in the process. This breakthrough should go a long way toward defusing the controversy surrounding increased federal funding for human ESC research.

This breakthrough does not mean scientists should or will abandon other types of stem cell research. As the Wisconsin Technology Council has noted in the past, adult stem cell research has demonstrated value over the past 40 years. In less than a decade, research using 21 embryonic lines approved for federal funding in August 2001 has also yielded promising results. It only makes sense to compare and contrast results from these different techniques, as important nuances and risks associated with each path will likely surface over time.

This is exciting news for Wisconsin, which is already the birthplace of human embryonic stem cell research and now is the epicenter of a groundbreaking process. The credibility of the researchers involved, starting with Dr. James Thomson of the UW-Madison, should persuade President Bush to revise his 2001 executive order so that federal funding for human ESC research using the new protocol can be funded at levels at least matching the federal investment in adult stem cell research.

We have lost valuable time in the race to understand embryonic stem cells; now is the time for the United States to regain the lead.

Human embryonic stem cell research has the potential to greatly improve the human condition, as well as contribute to the Wisconsin economy. Human ESC research is also a highly visible “standard-bearer” for Wisconsin’s $5 billion biotechnology industry, which has demonstrated its global excellence and depth in many other fields. Once again, Wisconsin stands at the core of discovery.

Click here to read a related story in WisBusiness.com
Click here to read a related story on the Wisconsin Technology Network
Click here to read a related story in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
Click here to read coverage on the UW-Madison News Service site

Contact: Tech Council President Tom Still at 608-442-7557.