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Pentagon funds Swedish stem cell study

24 March 2004
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 251

A Swedish research team has been granted 240,000 dollars by the US Department of Defense to undertake embryonic stem cell research (ES cell) for Parkinson's disease. The money has been pledged to Lund University in Sweden by the Pentagon despite limits currently in place in the US on this type of research. Originally, the Swedish team sought funding from the Michael J Fox Foundation, established by the actor who himself suffers from Parkinson's disease. But its application was apparently forwarded to the Pentagon, said a spokesperson for the university.

On 9 August 2001, President Bush announced that American ES cell researchers supported by federal funds could only work on stem cell lines already in existence on that date. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) identified 78 existing ES cell lines in the world at the time. Since then, US researchers have complained that the ES cell lines available for them are not of good enough quality and, earlier this month, congressional critics criticised Bush when it was established that 'only a fraction' of the 78 lines identified by the NIH are actually available.

But the US has apparently put its money into the Swedish research because if the studies show that ES cells would be beneficial to Parkinson's sufferers, the same findings may be used to treat other neurological illnesses, in particular those caused by chemical warfare and toxic substances to which soldiers may become exposed. The Swedish research is trying to find ways to direct ES cells to develop into the type of nerve cell that becomes deficient in the brains of Parkinson's patients. Patrik Brundin, leader of the research team, said that 'the goal is to develop a line of human embryonic stem cells which can be transplanted to test animals with a disease resembling Parkinson's'.

The ES cell lines to be used come from Goteborg University, and were included in the original 78 identified by the NIH, said Brundin.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Department of Defense Gives $240,000 for Swedish Embryonic Stem Cell Research Related to Parkinson's Disease
Reuters |  17 March 2004
Pentagon Bankrolls Swedish Stem Cell Study
Yahoo Daily News |  17 March 2004
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