U-M registers second stem cell line as research fight continues

As University of Michigan researchers continue to resist the Republican state legislators' effort to force it to reveal how many embryos it uses for stem cell research, the fight hasn't stopped scientists from enhancing the school's position in the field.

AnnArbor.com reports that the school placed its second embryonic stem cell line on the National Institutes of Health's stem cell registry (a nationwide resource) following the first one accepted to the registry in February. That's a big deal, the article notes, because the effort helps make the university one to watch as far as stem cell research goes, and also lets NIH-backed researchers use the same line for their own efforts. Academia is all about collaboration, after all. And the particular line, according to the story, is thought to be very useful in developing a cure for Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, a neurological disorder that causes early degeneration of muscles in legs, hand and feet. And more disease-specific embryonic stem cell lines are awaiting NIH approval.

But the action is likely to be seen as defiant by Republican lawmakers, the article explains, who say they will hold back up to $7 million in performance funding from the university if officials there don't fully reveal how many embryos they use for research. Michigan state lawmakers passed a law as part of the 2011 budget that requires state universities to reveal the embryo number, as well as other details about human embryonic research. School officials have said they don't have exact numbers and continue to resist those demands.

Specifically, University of Michigan president Mary Sue Coleman has said that her institution doesn't collect data according to the state law, but does so "according to the strict regulations of the federal government," according to the article. She added that the demand to count the number of embryos used according to the new state law is "trivializing the complexity" of stem cell research. The fight will be one to watch: Will academia ultimately triumph over political winds, or will politics shape future research funding at the state's university system?

- read the AnnArbor.com story