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California Promotes Stem Cell Research With New Law

September 27, 2002

Joined by actor Christopher Reeve and several of California's leading biotech researchers, Governor Gray Davis Sunday signed legislation designed to promote stem cell research in California.

"Stem cell research is responsible research that could potentially save millions of lives," said Gov. Davis. "With world-class universities, top-flight researchers and a thriving biomedical industry, California is perfectly positioned to be a world leader in this area. I am determined to keep California at the forefront of medical research and scientific innovation."

Stem cells are cells that have the ability to divide for indefinite periods in culture and to give rise to specialized cells (such as brain tissue, blood, skin, or any organ). These cells can be found in a variety of sources including human embryos, adults, umbilical cords, and placentas. Stem cells can be used to generate cells and tissue that can be used for cell therapies. Researchers say this may lead to the cure or effective treatment of diseases, conditions, and disabilities affecting more than 128 million Americans (including cancer, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases, spinal chord injury, stroke, burns, heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis).

SB 253, by Senator Deborah V. Ortiz (D-Sacramento), authorizes stem cell research from any source, including human embryonic stem cells, that is reviewed by an approved institutional review board. The new law also will facilitate the voluntary donation of embryos for stem cell research. The sale of embryos is prohibited.

The federal government has significantly limited federal funding available for stem cell research, specifically for human embryonic stem cell research.

Last week, the University of California, San Francisco began distributing the first of its two human embryonic stem cell lines to academic researchers, increasing the opportunity for scientists around the world to study the therapeutic potential of the cells. UCSF is one of only two academic institutions in the U.S. that produced human embryonic cells lines that qualified for inclusion in the National Institutes of Health Human Embryonic Stem Cell Registry established by President Bush in August 2001. The cell lines included on the registry can be studied by academic researchers with federal funds.

More information on the California legislation is available at: http://www.governor.ca.gov/state/govsite/gov_homepage.jsp