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Updated 3:00 PM May 2, 2006
 

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  Life sciences
Coleman urges reform, pursuit of stem cell research

The public needs to be educated about stem cell science and state laws must be reformed so that Michigan scientists can be on an equal footing with their colleagues and competitors in other states and nations, President Mary Sue Coleman told the Sigma Xi science and engineering honor society April 18.

Resurrecting an annual tradition of giving a state of the University's research address, Coleman spoke about the importance of stem cell research to the future of
U-M and the state.

"I am an absolute believer in stem cells and the promise that they hold," Coleman said in a sun-drenched lecture hall at the Palmer Commons. "This really is going to be the groundbreaking science of the 21st century."

But the state's unusually restrictive legislation concerning embryonic research and broadly defined "cloning," puts U-M and other research schools in the state at a disadvantage. "I believe this puts the state at risk," she said. "I believe it puts the University at risk by hindering investment, jobs and scientific discovery.

"We've got some of the best people in the country working on this," Coleman added. "Why should we give them up? That would be a tragedy."

The University's proper role in the policy debate is education, Coleman said. "I think there's a lot of confusion about what stem cells are and what stem cells are not."

To that end, U-M has provided a half-day scientific seminar and CD-ROM for journalists and editors, launched an educational Web site (lifesciences.umich.edu), and Coleman and scientists have made several visits to editorial page newspaper editors around the state.

Although embryonic stem cell research continues to generate concerns among some religious and political groups, "I absolutely believe this work can be done in a highly ethical way," Coleman said. Only embryos from in vitro fertilization procedures that are already slated for disposal would be used to create stem cells. "This isn't about abortion," she said. "You don't do abortions to create embryonic stem cell lines."

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