First Human Embryonic Stem Cell Lines
An exciting development in the field of stem cell research is taking place at the University of Michigan where researchers have just received approval to start accepting donated human embryos for preparing the school's first human stem cell lines. Dr. Eva Feldman, the director of the university's A. Alfred Taubman Medical Research Institute made the announcement in early December of 2009 during a speech she gave at the Detroit Economic Club.
The cell lines are to be used to further the study of inherited diseases. Cell lines can be used to study the causes of these diseases and to learn more about their progression. They will also be used by the university to test possible treatment agents and potential cures.
The combined embryo donation and cell line derivation program was made possible because of Proposal 2, an amendment to the state constitution that relaxed limits for research on human embryonic stem cells for the state of Michigan. Voters gave their approval to the new amendment in November 2008, giving Michigan researchers legal approval to create new cell lines from donated embryos which would otherwise need to be discarded. Since the amendment was approved, the university has been working on the blueprints that would ensure that all research would comply with federal laws, the Michigan State Constitution, and the newest regulations put into play by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
In order to make sure that the project would be in full compliance with all three groups, it was necessary to receive approval from the University of Michigan's Human Pluripotent Stem Cell Research Oversight Committee as well at the Institutional Review Board connected to the university's Medical School. Both of these committees are made up of doctors, ethicists, scientists, lawyers, and members of the community who are in a unique position to evaluate the ethical and legal aspects of this research and to make sure there will be a benefit to patients. The project received final approval on November 11, 2009.
The work of deriving cell lines from the donated human embryos will be performed by the university's Consortium for Stem Cell Therapies. The consortium was launched in March 2009, has funding commitments to the tune of around $2 million, and is comprised of researchers from all parts of the U of M campus along with collaborating researchers from Michigan State University and Wayne State University.