A notice for 8 million euros in funding for stem cell projects, a line of research that promises important results for ocular diseases, Parkinson’s, heart diseases, and the fight against tumors was announced by deputy health minister Ferruccio Fazio, who while speaking to the AGI press agency underlined “the importance of regenerative medicine, one of the great hopes for the future, as well as biotechnologies for new treatments altering molecular systems”.
The notification will expire on July 20 and is intended for universities, the National Research Council (CNR), and other private and public research groups. Three independent judges, one of whom will be from abroad, will evaluate the projects that are presented. The research topics eligible for funding include innovative strategies for experimental models (cellular and animal), risk/benefit analysis for pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments and epidemiology research.
An allocation of three million euros for the next three years is planned to finance projects on rare diseases. No referral to embryonic stem cells, which are considered by many experts to be more promising in research because they are totipotent, or potentially able to become any type of cell, was made in the notice. “This was a choice,” specified Fazio, “that the Federal and Regional government conference made, which asked for a change to the original announcement, which was open also to stem cells.
Not mentioning them was a not a political choice by the health ministry, but a decision made by the federal and regional governments”. In any case, explained the deputy minister, “studying adult stem cells and their differentiation is more interesting to me and I believe that it is more advantageous”. There are numerous possibilities for treatments: “Not only ocular and cardiac diseases, Parkinson’s and rare diseases,” explained Fazio, “but also new possibilities to fight tumors.
Some researchers believe that tumor stem cells are the most aggressive stem cells of the tumor, and somehow determine the spread of the tumor. Tumor stem cell research could help understand the evolution of tumors and prevent their growth by striking their stem cells”. Financing, assured Fazio, “is in line with previous funding and in 2009 there will be funding for general research, open to all lines of research, therefore there will be funds available for stem cells.”