Federal Stem Cell Research Threatened By Court Case

WASHINGTON, DC—The federal government is taking every step possible to keep funding flowing to research projects involving the use of embryonic stem cells after a judge ordered a halt to such funding.

On August 23, Judge Royce Lamberth of the US District Court in Washington, DC, placed a preliminary injunction on funding, forcing NIH to suspend grant reviews of proposals and threatening to cease payments to ongoing grants. The injunction came after a group of advocates that included adult stem cell researchers and Christian organizations argued that human embryos were destroyed during such research—an action prohibited by legislation known as the Dickey-Wicker Amendment. Lamberth found merit in their argument and imposed the injunction until the case is settled.

A request by the federal government for Lamberth to lift the injunction was denied. However, an appeal to a DC Appeals Court led to a stay of the injunction on September 9. The appeals court said the stay of Lamberth’s injunction was not a comment on the legality of the injunction, but was merely temporary in order to allow the court more time to consider the details of the case.

NIH Director Francis Collins, MD, said the injunction could cause irreparable damage and delay potential breakthroughs. “The injunction threatens to stop progress in one of the most encouraging areas of biomedical research, just as scientists are gaining momentum—and squander the investment we have already made,” he declared following the initial injunction. “The possibility of using these cells to replace those that have been damaged by disease or injury is one of the most breathtaking advances we can envision. We must move forward—without delay—to sustain this field of research.”

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