UI group wants stem cell study

By Patrick Wade

Arthur Dmitruk, junior in LAS, has a very close friend who recently became paralyzed. Dmitruk is hoping stem cell research can cure his friend and others like him.

“I feel I’m at a point in my life where I can advocate (stem cell research),” Dmitruk said.

Dmitruk and seven other members of the University’s chapter of the Student Society for Stem Cell Research, along with their chapter leader, met with state Sen. Michael Frerichs, D-Champaign, Monday evening to discuss how students can influence state appropriations for the research.

The Student Society for Stem Cell Research is an international group that advocates exploring stem cells as a way of curing certain diseases.

William Blank, president of the Registered Student Organization and senior in LAS, established the group at the University last spring.

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He said that although the group only has about 15 members who attend meetings regularly, it has more than 100 students on its mailing list.

“I think people are generally more open to (the research) than they were before,” Blank said.

Frerichs, a proponent of stem cell research, has co-sponsored two bills this year supporting the scientific studies.

“I thought it was a no-brainer,” Frerichs said.

He added that although he understands anti-abortion arguments against the research, the passage of stem cell legislation is something his constituents “wanted to see done.”

The senator said in the past three years, Gov. Rod Blagojevich has “snuck” in $15 million to fund stem cell research in Illinois.

“It caused some real problems with legislators who said, ‘No, I don’t want the money spent this way,'” Frerichs said.

The group is planning ways to get the word out on campus and in Springfield. Before Monday’s discussion, the members discussed creating a Facebook group and passing out bracelets and informational pamphlets on the Quad.

During the meeting, they discussed going to Springfield sometime in the spring to meet with legislators.

“I think right now, stem cell research is a fairly hot, sexy issue,” Frerichs said.