19 October 2010

Walker wants UW to Focus on Adult Stem Cell Research

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker said Tuesday if elected governor he would shift funding from embryonic stem cell research to adult stem cell research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

"I'm going to put the money behind adult stem cells - not embryonic," the Republican told reporters. "The money the state's involved (with), the money that comes from the federal government, should be focused on the greatest potential for success, and that's adult stem cell research."

David Gamm, a stem cell researcher at UW-Madison, called Walker's position "ridiculous" and "not practical" because it would mean researchers would lose millions in federal grants.

"This is basically ignorance," Gamm said. "I would pick up my funding and go somewhere else. I can't give up (nearly) $2 million in grants to stay in Wisconsin."

Walker, who opposes embryonic stem cell research because it destroys embryos, repeatedly refused Tuesday to say whether he supported an outright ban on embryonic stem cell research.

Walker has been endorsed by Pro-Life Wisconsin, however, and that group endorses only candidates who support a ban on embryonic stem cell research.

The university conducts research on both embryonic and adult stem cells and is known internationally as the place where embryonic stem cells were grown for the first time.

About $5 million a year in federal money goes toward embryonic stem cell research at UW.

Adult stem cells are cells that can turn into different cell types but have more limited potential than embryonic stem cells.

Embryonic stem cells have shown promise for curing diseases because they can become all cell types. Reprogrammed adult stem cells also have shown potential as a possible alternative to embryonic stem cells, but there have been some indications that they may not be equivalent. For example, the reprogrammed cells appear to retain a memory of their original cell type.

Walker's Democratic opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, said in a statement Tuesday that Walker's "ideological views threaten scientific research in our state that can save and improve lives, and they jeopardize significant business opportunities and thousands of jobs in Wisconsin's growing tech economy."

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