By Joanne Haas
Gov. Jim Doyle on Monday reiterated his pledge to support stem cell research — notably the work under way at the Waisman Center, the UW-Madison center devoted to human development, developmental disabilities and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
The Democratic governor toured the campus center in the morning, calling it a cornerstone for job creation, economic growth and life-improving discoveries. He made note of his $5 million technical assistance and matching grant initiative aimed at helping biomedical research. The proposal is contained in his Grow Wisconsin plan, unveiled last year, and is aimed at also accelerating stem cell research. Embryonic stem cells are viewed as an all-purpose tool kit to repair the human body.
“I am opposed to any legislation that would hinder stem cell research,” Doyle said. “As long as I am governor, no such legislation will ever become law in Wisconsin.”
Stem cell research, specifically that using embryonic cells, has been blasted as disrespectful of life because the cells are taken from unused embryos that have been fertilized for in-vitro . The research method is defended by UW researchers, who contend the embryos are donated by the couples in charge of them, and that the embryos would be destroyed in any event.
There is still significant opposition to the research among some of the more conservative members of the state Legislature who are behind proposals to limit the research.
President Bush in 2001 limited the use of federal research dollars to embryonic stem cell lines derived before Aug. 9, 2001, a decision many researchers opposed, viewing it as a move to appease conservative anti-abortion organizations. Researchers were further disappointed when news broke last month showing that 16 of the 78 approved stem cell colonies have either died or failed in their lab dishes, thereby limiting research.
Democratic Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin of Madison is heading up a letter campaign to encourage President Bush to relax his limit on the use of federal dollars.