Stem Cell Science Experts Release Letter Urging U.S. Commitment to All Avenues of Stem Cell Research

  • 22 September, 2008

Deerfield, IL – The International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) joined with other leading scientists today to issue an open letter to reiterate the urgent need for U.S. support for all types of stem cell research.  The Society is the world’s preeminent professional organization of stem cell researchers.

The letter is in response to critics who, the authors state, are using recent advances in adult stem cell research to advocate for restrictions on embryonic stem cell research.  These scientists warn that efforts to favor one arm of stem cell research at the expense of another are based on unsound interpretations of scientific discoveries. 

“Embryonic stem cell research, together with breakthroughs in iPS and adult stem cell technologies will together yield the insights that make medical advances possible,” said Dr. George Q. Daley, ISSCR past-president and associate director of the Stem Cell Program at Children’s Hospital Boston.  “We need to ensure that researchers are equipped to use all fruitful innovations to probe the basic biomedical principles that underlie medical research and treatment,”

The letter states that embryonic stem cells remain essential to progress in stem cell biology and notes that embryonic stem cells remain the gold standard of pluripotency – the invaluable property of certain stem cells to form all tissues in the body.  The authors emphasize that it is impossible to predict which areas of research will lead to breakthrough therapies – which is why the freedom of scientists to pursue all forms of stem cell research must be protected.  Banning lines of research for ideological or political reasons will limit discoveries, researchers say. 

Dr. Irving L. Weissman, president-elect of the ISSCR and Director of the Stanford Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, was one of seven researchers to join Daley in authoring the letter, and to call on other ISSCR members to sign. 

“As members of the stem cell research community, our ultimate goal is curing illness and alleviating human suffering.  As physicians and scientists, we face an urgent call to protect the principles of scientific freedom – not for the sake of science itself but for the sake of the patients we serve,” said Weissman.  “We believe that science and society have a partnership: science to find out how nature works, and society to judge and regulate the operations of science.  In California, where all kinds of stem cell research are allowed and funded, several levels of regulation protect patients and society at all stages of research and therapy.”

The letter asserts that research priorities should be based on sound scientific judgment – not politics or ideology – and should put the needs of patients in the center of the debate.  Only through aggressive research on all fronts will the safest and most effective therapies become available for those with debilitating diseases.

“It is in the best interests of our patients that we keep every promising avenue of stem cell research open,” said Daley.

The International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) is an independent, nonprofit membership organization established to promote and foster the exchange and dissemination of information and ideas relating to stem cells, to encourage the general field of research involving stem cells and to promote professional and public education in all areas of stem cell research and application.


Posted September 22, 2008