Wisconsin will join nationwide efforts to make sure federal funding reaches stem cell scientists in his state, Governor Jim Doyle announced. An injunction was granted by U.S. District Court Judge, Royce Lambeth which barred federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research.
Governor Doyle said:
Wisconsin is home to over 600 biotechnology companies and 11 stem cell companies. In total, there are more than 34,000 people working in bioscience research and industry in Wisconsin. These fields contribute almost $9 billion to Wisconsin's economy. But all of that is at risk today. Make no mistake; losing the millions of dollars in federal grants that our top researchers have earned will be detrimental to this state.
The US government is appealing the judge's decision and is seeking immediate relief from the order, so that federal research funds may resume. Governor Doyle, who used to be Wisconsin Attorney General, has offered to assist the Department of Justice in their efforts, and to provide evidence on how this ruling affects his State.
The State will also participate as an amicus in the appeal for the appellate court to understand the dramatic impact of Judge Lamberth's ruling on the State of Wisconsin.
In a press release, the governor's office writes:
In addition, Governor Doyle is asking Congress to repeal to Dickey-Wicker amendment and is working to ensure that members of Congress know what is at stake for Wisconsin. A change in federal law to modify or repeal the Dickey-Wicker amendment would definitively allow for federal funding of stem cell research.
Governor Doyle says investment in stem cell research has grown significantly in Wisconsin since he became Governor. According to the Governor's press release, Wisconsin is home to:
- The Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery - investigators specialized in the fields of biotechnology, nanotechnology and information technologies are working to develop new biomedical treatments.
- The UW-Madison Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Center - where researchers are the most frequently cited in stem cell research scientific journals.
- The Waisman Center - where scientists are combining stem cell research with gene therapies.
- The Medical College of Wisconsin - ranks in the top third of all U.S. medical schools in life science research funding and houses one of the largest bioinformatics research centers in the country.
- The Blood Center of Wisconsin - the State's 3rd largest biomedical research institution. It is one of only four blood centers in the world with a significant blood research program. It receives more funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) than any other blood center in the country.
- WiCell - selected as America's first and only National Stem Cell Bank by the NIH in 2005 and today continues as the Wisconsin International Stem Cell Bank.
What are Stem Cells?Stem cells are a class of undifferentiated cells that are able to differentiate into specialized cell types. Commonly, stem cells come from two main sources:
- Embryos formed during the blastocyst phase of embryological development (embryonic stem cells) and
- Adult tissue (adult stem cells).
Adult stem cells
Adult or somatic stem cells exist throughout the body after embryonic development and are found inside different types of tissue. These stem cells have been found in tissues such as the brain, bone marrow, blood, blood vessels, skeletal muscles, skin, and the liver. They remain in a quiescent or non-dividing state for years until activated by disease or tissue injury.
Adult stem cells can divide or self-renew indefinitely, enabling them to generate a range of cell types from the originating organ or even regenerate the entire original organ. It is generally thought that adult stem cells are limited in their ability to differentiate based on their tissue of origin, but there is some evidence to suggest that they can differentiate to become other cell types.
Embryonic stem cells
Embryonic stem cells are derived from a four- or five-day-old human embryo that is in the blastocyst phase of development. The embryos are usually extras that have been created in IVF (in vitro fertilization) clinics where several eggs are fertilized in a test tube, but only one is implanted into a woman.
Sexual reproduction begins when a male's sperm fertilizes a female's ovum (egg) to form a single cell called a zygote. The single zygote cell then begins a series of divisions, forming 2, 4, 8, 16 cells, etc. After four to six days - before implantation in the uterus - this mass of cells is called a blastocyst. The blastocyst consists of an inner cell mass (embryoblast) and an outer cell mass (trophoblast). The outer cell mass becomes part of the placenta, and the inner cell mass is the group of cells that will differentiate to become all the structures of an adult organism. This latter mass is the source of embryonic stem cells - totipotent cells (cells with total potential to develop into any cell in the body).
In a normal pregnancy, the blastocyst stage continues until implantation of the embryo in the uterus, at which point the embryo is referred to as a fetus. This usually occurs by the end of the 10th week of gestation after all major organs of the body have been created.
However, when extracting embryonic stem cells, the blastocyst stage signals when to isolate stem cells by placing the "inner cell mass" of the blastocyst into a culture dish containing a nutrient-rich broth. Lacking the necessary stimulation to differentiate, they begin to divide and replicate while maintaining their ability to become any cell type in the human body. Eventually, these undifferentiated cells can be stimulated to create specialized cells.
Click here to read a more comprehensive explanation about stem cells.
Source: Office of Governor Jim Doyle, Medical News Today internal archives.
Written by Christian Nordqvist