Stem Cell Breakthrough Encourages Germany to Increase Funding

Germany’s research minister wants to ease restrictions on stem cell research after recent research revealed that common skin cells can be modified to have embryonic like power. The U.S. and Japanese research has also prompted a pledge to invest more money in adult stem cell research.

“We will double research funds for the technology for reprogramming adult cells from 5 to 10 million euros ($7 to 15 million) a year, so that work can proceed quickly,” Education and Research Minister Annette Schavan told the newsmagazine Focus.

“Germany should become the motor of adult stem-cell research,” she added, noting that the recent scientific developments are a means of ending the embryonic stem cell debate.

The two teams, one from Kyoto University in Kyoto, Japan, and another from the University of Wisconsin, both worked independently in what could be described as a “race” to be the first to reprogram skin cells. Both announcements were made on November 20th.

Since embryos are discarded in the process, embryonic stem cell research has come under harsh scrutiny. Their versatility has prompted support of equal force as well. The two sides may soon have little to debate about.

The ethical controversy surrounding the research would be eliminated with the use of reprogrammed skin cells.

Stem cell research is strictly regulated in Germany. Not scientific research with embryos can be conducted, unless the embryos were imported into the country prior to January 1st, 2002. A one time change to extend the cut-off date was proposed, however, that may no longer be necessary.

“What’s important is that there is now greater hope of being able one day to do without tests on embryonic stem cells,” she said.

More countries should benefit form the finding other than Germany. Regulatory bodies around the world have unanimously supported the research, which will take the cap off funding in some cases, and allow scientists to access cells that have embryonic power.

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