SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich and Comptroller Dan Hynes today sent a letter to thirty doctors and scientists currently conducting stem cell research in Missouri encouraging them to explore research opportunities in Illinois. Last month, the Governor and Comptroller made Illinois the first state in the Midwest, and only the fourth state in the nation, to commit public funds to the life-saving work of stem cell research. Studying stem cells allows scientists and doctors to better understand what causes serious medical illnesses and conditions in hopes of discovering new ways to treat or even cure them.
“Staying on the cutting edge of stem cell research is critical to developing the cures of tomorrow. Here in Illinois, we’re advancing medical science by providing resources that will help stem cell researchers continue their groundbreaking work. Since the federal government has chosen to stall the medical advancements that will come with stem cell research, we believe it is up to the states to take action. Several states have chosen to suppress stem cell research, and other states have seen their programs held up in the partisan legislative process. Scientists in Missouri, for instance, have been forced to halt all recruiting and funding efforts for the Stowers Institute as the issue is debated. By making this new public funding available here, Illinois has become one of the nation’s leaders in providing resources for stem cell research. We encourage you to explore the possibility of moving to Illinois and leveraging our great research institutions, where many of your colleagues have found the freedom to explore the promise of stem cell research and its potential application for many of society’s most debilitating diseases,” wrote the Governor and the Comptroller.
The Governor and Comptroller sent letters to doctors and researchers across Missouri – including those at the Stowers Institute, Washington University School of Medicine, The Academy of Science for St. Louis, Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences, the Midwest Research Institute, the University of Missouri – Kansas City School of Medicine and St. Luke’s Health System.
“By reaching out to scientists across the country, Illinois is proving that it is serious about becoming a national center for stem cell research. While other states are stalling and blocking, we have the funding committed and the infrastructure in place to make Illinois a very attractive place in which to conduct this important research,” said Comptroller Hynes.
In July, the Governor signed an Executive Order directing the Illinois Department of Public Health to create a program that will award $10 million in grants to medical research facilities for the development of treatments and cures. The Governor estimated that the program, named the Illinois Regenerative Medicine Institute (IRMI), will be up and running by the end of the year.
With the Governor’s order, Illinois became one of the nation’s leaders in providing public funding for stem cell research. While proposals to fund this cutting edge medical research have stalled in states including Massachusetts, Maryland, and Missouri; Illinois joins New Jersey, California and Connecticut in providing funding for stem cell research.
Stem cells are cells that have the potential to develop in to many different types of healthy new cells in the body. As described by the National Institutes of Health, they act like an internal repair system for the body. Stem cells can divide to replenish other cells for as long as the body is alive. When a stem cell divides, each new cell has the potential to either remain a stem cell or become another type of cell like muscle cell, a red blood cell, or a brain cell.
Studying stem cells allows doctors to try to analyze how cells transform into other cells. Many of the most serious illnesses or birth defects are caused by problems in this process. So, understanding the process better may help doctors discover how to prevent, treat or cure illnesses and conditions.
A potential way to use stem cells is to make new cells or tissues for medical therapies. Currently, donated organs and tissues are used to replace those that are diseased or destroyed. But, there are far more people who need organ transplants than there are organs available. Some stem cells offer the possibility of making replacement cells and tissues to treat various diseases and conditions including Alzheimer’s, spinal cord injury, stroke, burns, heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
The Governor’s Executive Order dictated that the IRMI program will provide funding for stem cell research that involves adult, cord blood and embryonic stem cells. Medical and scientific accountability standards and rules will generally be consistent with those issued by the National Academies of Sciences and the National Institutes of Health, and the Department of Public Health will issue an annual report that details IRMI’s operation.
The Executive Order also mandated that no funding will be authorized for research involving human cloning, nor will funding be awarded to anyone who purchases or sells embryonic or fetal tissue for research purposes, and time limits will be set for extracting cells from blastocysts.