As published as an editorial in the Connecticut Post, December 9, 2009.
State Was Wise to Fund Cell Research
In 2005, the state of Connecticut allocated $100 million to be spent over 10 years on research into the mystery and potential of stem cells, those cells that have no function other than to maintain themselves and make all the other cells in the body.
Some four years into this effort, it's apparent that the money is well spent.
Researchers at the University of Connecticut, Yale and Wesleyan are digging into the cells and getting closer to the bottom regarding the cause of things in the human body, what is it that makes us what and who we are, and, of course, what are the causes of disease.
Reading about the topic can lead into a confusing thicket of terms like piwi-interactive RNA, piwi/Argonaute genes, induced pluripotent human stem cells, chromosomes, hematopoietic stem cells and so forth.
The bottom line, though, is that the global effort in stem cell research holds the potential for treatment or cure of debilitating conditions like Parkinson's, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, aka Lou Gehrig's disease; heart disease and the rest of the litany of ailments that make up the human condition.
Some talk of a cancer vaccine as the Holy Grail of stem cell research.
While it's not such a flattering thought, most of the research going on at Yale involves -- add this term to the thicket, Drosophila melanogaster -- the common fruit fly. It seems their genetic material is not a lot different from ours.
So researchers start with it, the lowly fruit fly, and learn what they can. Eventually, years down the road, there will be human tests, and the day may come where a patient-specific drug may be available to treat a condition.
The work going on in Connecticut today is going to benefit humanity. We should be proud of it, and continue to support it.