When Michigan voters passed Proposal 2 last fall, legalizing stem cell research, they made it clear that they support this life-saving research. In March, President Barack Obama acted on his support of it when he issued an executive order overturning the Bush administration’s restrictive policies on federal funding stem cell research. His administration proposed new ethical guidelines for this research in April. Those new guidelines are finally complete, and they’re set to benefit the University, the state of Michigan and the country economically and in terms of medical advancements. University researchers should make use of this opportunity to obtain federal funds to support research activities and jumpstart a new industry this state desperately needs.

On July 7, the National Institutes of Health put the new ethical guidelines for human embryonic stem cell research into effect. According to the NIH website, scientific, medical, religious and public groups were all consulted while setting these guidelines. They establish informed-consent rules for new stem cell lines, require that they come from discarded stem cells used for in-vitro fertilization and establish a registry for all approved lines. The NIH has more than $10 billion in federal stimulus money and millions more in research grants to offer research groups that follow the new guidelines.

The time is right for the University to take advantage of the federal funding for this vibrant, important new field in medical science.

The most important benefit of stem cell research, of course, is its incredible potential to cure deadly diseases. Stem cells are unspecialized cells capable of renewing themselves and can be changed into other specialized types of cells. This makes them crucial for finding cures to diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, diabetes and others. By setting up a clear path to obtain federal funds, the new guidelines encourage this important research to happen at a faster rate.

But federal funding for stem cell research will also specifically benefit the University. Stem cell research grants will lead to new research opportunities at the University. Such research will draw leaders in the growing field to campus. That will attract the best professors and researchers here, too, and add to the University’s already impressive reputation in scientific and medical research. This, in turn, will help the University produce students well-versed in stem cell research.

The same boost that stem cells bring the University will also happen throughout the state. In a state that desperately needs new industries, stem cell research could help build a vibrant new type of economy. The federal funds offered to those who follow the NIH’s new guidelines will help Michigan’s research universities expand with offers of larger, more productive programs in the growing field of stem cell research. This growth will bring not only money into the state, but new, permanent, science-oriented jobs that a new economy will depend on.

More funds and progress in stem cell research will help sick patients and our ailing state. University researchers should take advantage of this opportunity to not only pursue important research and find treatments for diseases, but also bring funds to a state that needs an economic cure.

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