As published as an editorial by the Connecticut Post, March 18, 2009.
State Holds Edge on Stem Cell Work
President Barack Obama's decision earlier this month to reverse a ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research could translate into a major boost for Connecticut and its medical researchers.
Connecticut is one of only eight states that committed to funding stem cell research after the Bush administration eight years ago imposed limitations on federal money that could be used for such research. Other states are now taking initial steps to catch up because of the ban's reversal.
In 2005, the General Assembly and governor committed $100 million over 10 years -- $30 million of which has been expended. Now that investment may yield dividends.
Researchers in Connecticut -- especially at Yale, Wesleyan and the University of Connecticut -- are now well positioned and experienced to take advantage of some of the $10 billion allotted to the National Institutes of Health as part of the $787 billion economic stimulus package approved by Congress in February. The NIH is charged with deciding what types of research can be performed and devising ethical standards to guide that research.
In fact, in January, researchers at UConn announced a major advance for the state's stem cell research efforts when they created two new lines of human embryonic stem cells, the raw material needed for the research.
A majority of Americans inside and outside of the medical and scientific community, polls indicate, favor stem cell research. Scientists believe it could be used to replace cells damaged by injury or disease and to help cure or alleviate many medical problems. Researchers concede, however, it could be years before major advances take place.
On this issue, state officials must be lauded for possessing insight and placing Connecticut ahead of the curve.