Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Friday, September 17, 2010

Morrison tells senators all stem cell research needed to develop new therapies

The director of U-M’s Center for Stem Cell Biology told a U.S. Senate appropriations subcommittee in Washington on Thursday that funding for human embryonic stem cell research must continue.

Sean Morrison testified before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education that all forms of stem cell research must be pursued in order to have the greatest chance of developing new therapies for treating a wide range of diseases and conditions.

A recent federal court injunction threatened to interrupt funding for research on human embryonic stem cells. That injunction later was lifted pending a hearing next week by an appeals court.

“During this time, I told my lab that if funding were cut off as a result … that we would abandon our work” in certain areas of research, Morrison said. “Blocking federal funding of embryonic stem cell research would certainly block scientific progress and likely delay the search for new therapies.”

Morrison was joined on a panel that included Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health and a former U-M researcher. Collins agreed that stem cell research holds great promise and should go forward.

Morrison pointed out that many “adult” stem cells used for research are actually derived from embryonic cells, which he said renders “meaningless” the differences in terms of potential for scientific advancement. He added that American science is the “envy of the world” where the best ideas compete for funding.

“Science takes time, and the path to cures is uncertain and fraught with setbacks,” Morrison added. “For that reason, we must support all forms of stem cell research so that we can get there sooner rather than later.”

Morrison concluded by urging Congress to clarify federal law to eliminate any ambiguity about funding for embryonic stem cell research.