While the US government appeals against a total ban on embryonic stem cell research federal funding, a US court has ruled that funding may continue, overturning an earlier suspension by a federal judge. If the ban had continued, a considerable number of research projects into fatal diseases would have collapsed, government lawyers said.
Embryonic stem cell research is a controversial theme in the United States, much less so than in Europe. Opponents say it destroys human embryos, an action which violates US law, specifically a 1996 law known as the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, which prohibits expending federal funds for "research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed."
In August 2010, US District Judge, Rouce Lamberth ruled that all NIH (National Institutes of Health) embryonic stem cell research grants (federal funding) should stop until its legality, which is being challenged in the courts, is resolved.
In early October 2010 the ban was temporarily lifted. Yesterday's Appeals Court ruling overrules previous rulings - in short, the ban is lifted until a final decision on embryonic stem cell research federal funding is reached. The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. decided that the US government had satisfied the standards required for a stay, pending appeal.
US media report that yesterday's scheduled 30-minute hearing went on for over an hour.
The appeals court's final decision will be made by:
- Judge Judith Rogers (appointee of President Clinton)
- Judge Thomas Griffith (appointee of President George W. Bush)
- Judge Brett Kavanaugh (appointee of President George W. Bush)
We're heartened that the court will allow NIH and their grantees to continue moving forward while the appeal is resolved
Research on embryonic stem cells was limited to a small number of existing cell lines in August 2001, following an order by President George W. Bush. President Barak Obama opened up federal funding more broadly in March 2009.
Embryonic stem cells are derived from a four- or five-day-old human embryo that is in the blastocyst phase of development. The embryos are usually extras that have been created in IVF (in vitro fertilization) clinics where several eggs are fertilized in a test tube, but only one is implanted into a woman.
Click here to read about stem cells in more detail.
Written by Christian Nordqvist