Stem cell researcher heads to Europe

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Feb. 7, 2005

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Critics of President Bush's restrictions on embryonic stem cell research have warned that his policies will lead to a "brain drain" with leading U.S. scientists going to other countries that offer more scientific freedom. But when one of the nation's top stem cell researchers said she is leaving the United States, it was for personal -- not political -- reasons.

Dr. Catherine Verfaillie, who discovered how adult bone marrow stem cells can be "coaxed" into becoming brain, heart and other types of cells, is stepping down as director of the Stem Cell Institute at the University of Minnesota in two years so that she can develop a similar operation at her alma mater, Belgium's Katholieke Universiteit Leuven.

Dr. Verfaille arrived at the University of Minnesota from Belgium in 1987 to participate in a 6-month research program and never left. The Stem Cell Institute was established in 1999, and she said her new center in Belgium will collaborate with University of Minnesota scientists.

Supporters of President Bush's policies often cite her success with adult stem cells as a reason why embryonic stem cell research is unnecessary. Dr. Verfaillie, however, maintains that both types are needed, because it is unknown which cells will work best for which potential therapies.

Note: This item originally appeared at

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