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Social scientists study impact of human adult stem cell research
Date:6/10/2011

New research says studying both adult and embryonic stem cells can benefit medical science, but banning the study of either type could harm studies of the other.

Researchers from the University of Michigan, Stanford University and the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. recently investigated whether the increased number of studies with a certain type of adult stem cell has changed the overall course of research in the field.

The researchers analyzed more than 2,000 scientific papers and found adult stem cells are not replacing human embryonic stems cells in the laboratory. Instead, the two cell types have proven to be complementary and any disruption of federal funding, they say, would negatively impact stem cell research overall.

"This is an important study that systematically examines the co-authorship networks of stem cell research articles and uses those to understand the interactions between two complementary areas of research," says Julia Lane, program director for Science of Science & Innovation Policy at the National Science Foundation (NSF), which funded the study.

"It is particularly interesting because it uses new analytical techniques to advance our understanding of how the implementation of policy in one area can affect scientific research in another area."

The research appears in the June 9 journal Cell.

"The incentives to use both types of cell in comparative studies are high," says Jason Owen-Smith, a sociologist at University of Michigan. He notes the science behind adult stem cells that can be "reprogrammed," called human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs), is still in its infancy, having become widely available in 2007.

"As a result, induced pluripotent stem cells do not offer an easy solution to the difficult ethical questions surrounding embryonic stem cell research," he says.

Pluripotent stem cells are those capable of differentiating into any type of tissu
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Contact: Bobbie Mixon
bmixon@nsf.gov
703-292-8485
National Science Foundation
Source:Eurekalert  

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