Pelosi visits UCSF's stem cell lab

April 17, 2009 7:12:48 PM PDT
The National Institutes of Health issued new guidelines Friday for embryonic stem cell research. The new rules require researchers to use only cells from fertility clinic embryos that would otherwise be thrown away. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi paid a visit a stem cell lab at the University of California San Francisco on Friday.

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A UCSF stem cell lab was built without federal funding because there was none available during the former administration. However, President Obama has lifted funding restrictions and now House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the university's Gladstone institutes stand to receive $3 million in stimulus dollars.

"For the last eight years we've had a situation where it was faith or science, take your pick. Now we're saying science is the answer to our prayers," said Speaker Pelosi.

Pelosi got to see a cardiac stem cell, pulsing like a beating heart. It was created from a skin-cell of a woman with cardiac disease.

"That allows us two things, to understand why the disease occurred in the patient and the other is, it allows us a cellular model that we can use to screen for new drugs that we can use to slow down that disease process," said UCSF's Deepak Srivastava, M.D.

Dr. Strivastava says the technology to create one kind of stem cell from another kind was only discovered a year ago and new drugs developed because of it are only a few years away.

Pelosi told scientists at UCSF that the recovery bill includes $18 billion for science, $10 billion of that for the National Institutes of Health. UCSF is the nation's second largest recipient of NIH funding.

"Science is really in a hurry and the federal government was not keeping pace, but we're back," said Pelosi.

Joe DeRisi's UCSF lab was key in identifying the SARS virus and is applying for stimulus dollars to support continuing work on discovery and prevention of infectious disease.

He says without renewed federal funding for science, an entire generation of scientists might have been lost.

"Most young scientists the last six to eight years are really thinking, 'Should I be in science because we're not being supported?'" said Joe DeRisi Ph.D.

Last year UCSF received more than $444 million in NIH research funding.

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