Ten years of stem cells - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Ten years of stem cells


MADISON (WKOW) -- Tuesday night at the Overture Center, stem cell supporters celebrated a decade's worth of bio-science breakthroughs. They're not only talking about what they've done in the past -- but what they hope to do in the future.

Ten years after his discovery, UW professor James Thomson recalled the infancy of stem cells and how they can transform themselves in the human body.

"It doesn't look like a heart cell, or a brain cell, or a kidney cell," he said. "It basically doesn't know what it wants to be when it grows up."

Researchers hope laboratory experiments with stem cells will lead to practical treatments for patients suffering from diseases like Parkinson's and Lou Gehrig's.

"There's a lot of hurdles to getting these things in the clinic in any kind of meaningful way," said Seth Taapken, WiCell Researcher. "But, we can't ever do that unless we're allowed to work on it."

At a stem cell summit earlier this year, Governor Jim Doyle urged state leaders to fund the bio-science. In taped remarks, he reiterated the message, saying Wisconsin plays a key role in the future of biotechnology. Others are hoping the stem cell industry will expand outside of Dane County.

"There's a lot of interest in making a research corridor between Milwaukee and Madison," said Dick Leinenkugel, Secretary of Commerce. "I think that's a possibility in the future if we take a look at the capability of UW-Milwaukee and some of their research capabilities which are coming on line now."

People at Tuesday's anniversary party also cheered an important political appointment. UW bioethics professor Alta Charo was appointed to president elect Barack Obama's transition team. Experts say Charo's appointment could pave the way for federal support of stem cells as part of Obama's healthcare initiatives.

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