Stem cells in the 2012 Presidential election

Stem cells in the 2012 Presidential election October 8, 2012

This is a guest post by Laurel Barchas, the Director of Academic Outreach for the Genetics Policy Institute and a friend and classmate of my old pal Nick Matzke at Berkley. It’s about an upcoming conference on stem cell research and the political implications for that research pending the outcome of the presidential election.

Stem cells in the 2012 Presidential election

By Laurel Barchas, October 2, 2012

The results of the upcoming election will be crucial to the future of stem cell research and regenerative medicine in the U.S. and globally. In 2009, Obama reversed Bush’s eight-year ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research using human embryos derived from in vitro fertilization. This year, if Romney is elected (Darwin forbid), we may see another reversal of funding status to that of the Bush era. Romney surprisingly is in favor of deriving stem cells from in vitro embryos that have gone through “rigorous parental consent”, but is not going to allow federal funding to clone or create/derive embryos to create stem cell lines. Instead, he supports genetic reprogramming to create “induced” embryonic stem cells using a patient’s own cells. This is certainly a promising avenue of research, but many people in the scientific community can’t see a world without embryonic stem cell research funded by the federal government. Much more potent than adult stem cells, naturally-derived and induced embryonic stem cells are incredibly important to understand development and disease processes. Furthermore, federal funds for all national scientific institutes is decreasing 9% next year, and scientists who are already being funded for embryonic stem cell research will lose their grants. Even more damaging, this will severely limit the number of labs filled with new ideas and fresh faculty, because grants from established labs are more likely to be funded when funding is cut.

There is an active community of scientists, patient advocates, educators, lawyers and regulators, doctors, industry professionals, and students who meet once a year at the World Stem Cell Summit. This three-day conference, happening this year December 3-5 in West Palm Beach, Florida (fun?!), is the largest and most comprehensive multi-track interdisciplinary stem cell event, featuring 170+ renowned international speakers and 50+ hours of in-depth programming in tracks covering research, translation, regulation, commercialization, and consumer safety.

As an attendee, you will be exposed to cutting-edge everything—in every area of the stem cell field. It really is an incredible experience for first timers and you can check out the agenda and speaker list at

We understand that people reading this blog are connected and care about our country’s scientific future. If we come together as a unit, we are better able to fight proposed legislative changes that would shut down hope for many Americans who want to see our (significant) investments bear fruit.

The World Stem Cell Summit is an effective platform for you to advance all objectives related to the field of regenerative medicine, while enabling a more supportive climate for research. Join your colleagues around the world for an event you will never forget. Please forward this on to others in a broad range of fields. We are counting on you to spread the word!

Laurel Barchas

Director of Academic Outreach, Genetics Policy Institute

Ph.D. Candidate, Integrative Biology, Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, UC Berkeley


Laurel Barchas is a California native and long-time advocate for regenerative medicine. Laurel is currently in a doctoral program at UC Berkeley studying the effects of stress on adult neural stem cells. At age 22, she authored the California State Stem Cell Curriculum, freely available at, which is being used in high schools and colleges around the nation. Laurel intends to enter another doctoral program in Science and Mathematics Education so she can critically evaluate of the CIRM curriculum, develop more educational materials, and make an impact on how young people view science.

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  • Michael Heath

    Robert Draper did an excellent and recent magazine length article on Mitt Romney as governor of Massachusetts. In that article Draper reports on how Mr. Romney’s interface with scientists and how he’s currently taking a seemingly contradictory approach to stem cell research (according to slc1), and relative to Laurel Barchas’s description here. Here’s the link: .

  • baal

    As someone who used to be in a stem cell lab, embryonic stem cells are not the same as either the adult version (purified from adult tissues) nor as say a cell that was induced to become a stem cell. I look forward to a future where stem cells are an available therapy. Just as one example, it’s possible that stem cells could be pushed to create new cartilage for knee joints. The doc would inject your knee with the right stem cell type and over a few months, they’d remake the cartilage. If you know anyone with sports related injuries or just ‘worn out’ knees in the elderly, you can see how awesome that would be.

    Also, for you conservative folks, this work will happen w/o the U.S. We’ve already ceeded to China rare-earth tech and industry control (battery and solar cells). That’s economy we don’t get and they do.

  • leni

    That really does sound interesting and fun. I can’t go, but if I had the funds I think I would.

  • You go LB!

    PS to Ed: Berkley –> Berkeley 🙂

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  • F

    Stem cells in the 2012 Presidential election

    I’d vote for Stem Cells for any office in the land.

  • And then tere’s the simple no-brainer (not a conservative strong suit) that adult cells are WAY easier and WAY less expensive to cultivate..In HHGE numbers nonethelss. If it was a vaible option, it would have been the one we took. I mean DUH. I figured this out without knowing ANYTHING behind syem-cell technology… Do I get a degree now.? Yeesh