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University of Michigan Announces $10.5 Million Stem Cell Research Expansion


The University of Michigan is allocating $10.5 million for an expansion of its stem cell research programs, an effort to keep the school in the vanguard of biomedical research, President Mary Sue Coleman says.

Coleman said the school was establishing an interdisciplinary center for stem cell research, based in Michigan’s Life Sciences Institute.

“Stem cell science is one of the most important areas in biomedical research today,” Coleman said in a statement. “It has already yielded key insights into the elusive biology of human development and has great potential for increasing our understanding of devastating human diseases like diabetes, cancer, Parkinson’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases.”

The $10.5 million funding for the center comes from the Medical School, the Life Sciences Institute and the Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience Institute, the university said.

Stem cell scientist Sean Morrison will head the center, which will hire up to seven faculty members. Morrison, an associate professor of internal medicine, has studied stem cells that produce blood and immune system cells and those that produce the cells of the peripheral nervous system.

The university says the center “will emphasize using stem cell science to answer the most pressing questions of fundamental human biology, such as how specific tissues in the body are formed and how cells communicate with one another.”

“Our commitment to follow the science where it leads is Michigan’s historic strength and research signature,” Coleman says. “As a world scientific leader, U-M is vigorously pursuing this promising area of discovery.”

Stem cells are building blocks that turn into different types of tissue. One type of stem cells is the embryonic stem cell. Research involving human embryonic stem cells has drawn opposition from those who say that embryos are living human beings.

President Bush in 2001 restricted the use of federal money to fund stem cell work, which scientists complain the administration’s policy has hampered the field from advancing.

“There are far more people who are excited about the possibilities of this research than are uncomfortable with it,” Morrison told The Detroit News. “There are many who have long aligned with the pro-life movement who now are speaking about the possibilities and necessities of this research.”

The University of Michigan Medical School hosts one of three National Institutes of Health-funded human embryonic stem cell research centers.

“We believe the new center for stem cell biology will serve as a research hub leading to increased communication and collaboration among all U-M scientists working in this dynamic field of scientific inquiry,” Medical School Dean Dr. Allen S. Lichter says. “The opportunity to interact and share expertise and technical resources will be an enormous benefit to everyone involved.”

Associated Press

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