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Embryonic and Adult Stem Cell Research are Closely Intertwined

Social scientists from the University of Michigan, Stanford University and the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, have found that medical science can benefit from both embryonic and adult stem cell research but halting studies of either stem cell type would harm the other. This provides an insight into the effect of policies in either of the areas onto the other area. The research has been published in the recent issue of Cell.

The researchers made their conclusion based on investigation whether the increase in studies of adult stem cells transformed the overall course of the studies in the field. Based on the analysis of co-authorship of more than 2,000 papers, the scientists concluded that embryonic stems cells are not replaced with adult stem cell in the laboratory. On the contrary, research of both cell types appeared to be complementary.

The researchers studied papers on stem cell research published between 1998 and 2010. They noticed the growth of papers using both adult and embryonic stem cells together is exceeding the growth in research of adult stem cells alone. By 2010, 28% of papers described studies with both cell types, and 62% of these papers paired embryonic and adult cell lines.

Such intertwined nature of research of both cell types makes it vulnerable to policy changes in the U.S. If, say, the federal funding for embryonic stem cell research would be cut, adult stem cell research would be hindered as well.