Germany has pledged to invest more money in stem-cell research with adult cells after Japanese and US scientists recently announced a breakthrough. The country's research minister also wants to ease some restrictions.
"We will double research funds for the technology for reprogramming adult cells from 5 to 10 million euros ($7 to 15 million) a year, so that work can proceed quickly," Education and Research Minister Annette Schavan told the newsmagazine Focus.
"Germany should become the motor of adult stem-cell research," she added, noting that the recent scientific developments wouldn't have been possible without embryonic stem cell research.
Teams of researchers from the US and Japan announced on Nov. 20 that they had independently succeeded in inserting genes into adult skin cells to create cells that function similarly to those from human embryos.
German restrictions to be reviewed
Stem-cell research, which has until now exclusively used human embryonic cells due to their versatility, has come under fire for ethnical reasons because the embryos are discarded in the process.
The use of adult skin cells would alleviate the ethical controversy surrounding the research.
Germany tightly regulates stem-cell research within its borders, only allowing scientists to use cells from embryos that were imported into the country prior to Jan. 1, 2002. The law is hotly contested and is slated for parliamentary review in spring 2008.
Schavan said she favored a one-time shift of the cut-off beyond Jan. 1, 2002.
"What's important is that there is now greater hope of being able one day to do without tests on embryonic stem cells," she said, conceding that the recent advancement wouldn't have been possible without previous research on embryonic cells.