SEQUESTER CUTS: U of M biomedical research suffers - FOX 13 News

SEQUESTER CUTS: U of M biomedical research suffers

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The across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration have been met with frustration before, but cuts to medical research has families waiting on results saying it's a matter of life and death.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar is calling on Congress to avoid gutting funding for biomedical research at the University of Minnesota, arguing for a more targeted approach to deficit reduction instead.

The sequester was supposed to be a doomsday scenario that would force lawmakers toward compromise on a budget. Instead, it seems the deep cuts are becoming the new normal.

Those cuts are now coming to the U of M's Biomedical Discovery Lab, which is where researchers are reprogramming skin cells to function as beating heart cells.

"The things we learn in the lab, we hope to translate directly to a human patient," Dr. Joe Metzger told FOX 9 News.

The research in question is called genome editing, and it may help find a cure for muscular dystrophy.

"This is an abstract issue to us," Topio Haku, whose son has muscular dystrophy, said. "This is a matter of life."

Topio and Anneke Haku's son, Jackson, was diagnosed shortly after his fifth birthday after the boy told his parents it felt like his legs were made of lead.

"Struggling a little bit on steps, tripping and falling a lot," Haku recalled.

Now, however, the mandatory budget cuts totaling just over $1.5 billion are threatening to slow that research.

"These experiments are very costly, so sequestration hit the university -- and every biomedical research lab -- very significantly," Metzger said.

According to Metzger, 90 percent of their budget comes directly from the National Institutes of Health, funding that was cut by 5 percent when Congress failed to pass a budget by March 1.

"That directly affects the rate of progress," Metzger explained. "It has a one-to-one correlation."

That is why Sen. Amy Klobuchar is urging members of the U.S. House of Representatives to help get a budget deal done once more.

"We don't want to be making cuts in places where we need the money the most, which is life-saving cures and research that needs to go on in science and medicine," she argued.

The Hakus worry that politics could stall progress if the funding for life-saving research is left to lawmakers, so they are also calling on Congress to act toward compromise immediately.

"We're at the starting line. We're ready. There's researchers ready -- and you're slowing us down," Anneke Haku said to lawmakers. "Every day matters. It really matters -- hours matter. The longer it takes, that's fewer days for Jack."

The U.S. Senate has already passed a budget deal, which means it's time for the House to go begin a conference committee to work out the differences.

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