As published as an editorial in the Norwich Bulletin, February 1, 2009.

Our View: State at Forefront of Research

Three years ago, the state made a $100 million investment in furthering the research of human embryonic stem cells after former President Bush banned the use of federal funds for such studies.

Last week, the state’s investment paid off royally.

The University of Connecticut announced its researchers have developed two new lines of human embryonic stem cells, the raw material necessary for further research for the treatment of various diseases. The school already has shared the discovery with other educational institutions’ research programs with regard to specific diseases.

The timing of the UConn announcement is significant, coming just days after the Food and Drug Administration authorized the first government-approved test using stem cells in humans. Eight to 10 patients with spinal cord injuries will be tested to determine the safety of stem cells in human subjects, while at the same time looking for any signs of restored sensations or the ability for movement.

Stem cell research also holds great promise for finding cures for Parkinson’s, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and other diseases as well as spinal cord injuries, because stem cells can become any type of cell.

Ready to Lead

This is cutting-edge technology and because of the state’s foresight, Connecticut may become a leader in furthering its development toward creating cures for diseases once thought incurable.

Researchers at UConn and state officials have every reason to be proud of the accomplishment.

This week, President Obama is expected to sign an executive order reversing the ban on the use of federal funds for research, and the University of Connecticut may benefit greatly from that given its success thus far. UConn is only the fourth university in the country to develop this capability, according to Ren-He Xu, director of the school’s stem cell core laboratory.

Less than a third of the state’s original investment, about $30 million, has been spent to date to build the research facilities, recruit the faculty and fund the research. And that has led to stem cell-related businesses being developed.