Letter of support for the November 2008 Michigan ballot initiative to support embryonic stem cell research

  • 5 September, 2008

September 3, 2008

Mark A. Burton
Campaign Director
Stem Cell Research Ballot Question Committee (BQC)
PO Box 20216
Lansing, MI 48901


Dear Mr. Burton,

On behalf of the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) and the ISSCR Government Affairs Committee, we are writing to offer our support of your important initiative to amend the constitution of the state of Michigan to permit the derivation of embryonic stem cells from human embryos using approaches that are being used throughout much of the rest of the world. 

The ISSCR is an independent, nonprofit organization formed in 2002 to foster the exchange of information on stem cell research and represents over 2,600 leading stem cell researchers from around the world, including researchers in Michigan.  There is widespread agreement amongst the membership of the ISSCR and stem cell biologists worldwide about the importance of ongoing embryonic stem cell research.

The use of stem cells or products identified using stem cell research, will transform the future of medicine and offer new treatments for diseases that are currently incurable. There are numerous types of stem cells available to researchers.  However, no one stem cell type seems likely to provide a one-stop shop for all human ailments; each has advantages and disadvantages.  Until cures are found for the countless diseases and conditions that affect millions of Americans, research must proceed with all types of stem cells, including embryonic, adult, and reprogrammed cells. 

It has become fashionable in some quarters to suggest that the new, exciting technology that can generate embryonic-like stem (iPS) cells from adult human cells, has made the derivation and use of human embryonic stem cells (hESC) unnecessary.  This is simply not true.  We do not yet know how closely these iPS cells resemble hESC and current strategies for making iPS cells cause genetic defects that predispose these cells to cancer: existing iPS cell lines could never be used in patients. Moreover, the very ability to reprogram human cells was only made possible by hESC research. These advances thus demonstrate the power of hESC research to create new possibilities for curing human disease. It would be premature to assume that this legacy is now exhausted. This work must continue, including the derivation of new hESC lines from embryos that would be discarded by fertility clinics. The ethical safeguards proposed under Michigan’s ballot initiative would provide an ethical framework within which important medical research could go forward.

The ISSCR and its membership of stem cell biologists in Michigan and throughout the world support the research and the ethical safeguards that your ballot initiative would put in place.


Fiona M. Watt, ISSCR President

Posted September 5, 2008