Thursday, September 9, 2010

Stem Cell Funding Ban Suspended During Appeal

Thursday, September 9, 2010
By: Dan Vergano USA Today

Federal judges Thursday temporarily stayed a human embryonic stem cell research funding cut-off, allowing experiments to continue for now.

In August, federal judge Royce Lamberth had ordered that federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research stop. He found in the court case Sherley v. Sebelius that it could cause two adult stem cell researchers "irreparable harm" and that it was banned under a 1996 law forbidding federal funding of experiments that required the destruction of human embryos.

The funding cut-off triggered a legal protest from the Justice Department and National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins, as well as outcries from stem cell researchers. First reported by Bloomberg News, however, the U.S. Court of Appeals for Washington, D.C., ordered Thursday a stand-down of the cut-off, in the dry language of the legal profession:

"09/09/2010 CLERK'S ORDER filed [1264809] ORDERED that the district court's August 23, 2010 order be stayed pending further order of the court. FURTHER ORDERED that appellees file a response to the emergency motion by September 14, 2010, at 4:00 p.m. The appellants may file a reply by 4:00 p.m. on September 20, 2010. [10-5287]"

The latest turn in the case, which has generated enormous consternation in scientific circles, was greeted with approval from research advocates, such as Lisa Hughes of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research, who in a statement said:

"We are very pleased that the Court of Appeals has stayed the preliminary injunction. It is crucial that federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research be restored permanently and this stay is a step in that direction. While this issue continues to be argued in the courts, we call on Congress to move swiftly to resolve this issue and secure the future of this important biomedical research."

USA TODAY has asked the National Institutes of Health and a representative of the adult stem cell researcher plaintiffs in the case, Theresa Deisher and James Sherley, for comment on the stay of the funding cut-off. The adult stem cell researchers argued that embryonic stem cell research funding could interfere with their research's funding.

Embryonic stem cells are building blocks from which all tissues develop during embryonic growth. In 1998, a University of Wisconsin team first isolated human embryonic stem cells, opening their door to potential use in screening drugs, researching organ development and perhaps turning into transplant tissues for ailments ranging from diabetes to paralysis.

However, a 2001 Bush Administration decision limiting federal funding of research on the cells to already created colonies, or lines (less than two dozen by 2008), sparked a political furor. Bush had decried the destruction of days-old human embryos needed to gather the cells to grow new colonies. In 2009, the Obama administration removed the Bush restrictions, instituting new rules that saw 75 lines approved for funding until the Lamberth decision, including one line approved under the Bush rules.

The stay of the funding cut-off sets the stage for another round of court battles over embryonic stem cells.

Learn more at www.MissouriCures.com >

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