U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth dismissed a legal challenge to NIH (National Institutes of Health) funding for human embryonic stem cell research. The judge upheld the federal government's legislation - this is seen as a victory for the Obama administration.
A year ago Judge Royce Lamberth stopped funding on human embryonic stem cell research, which was subsequently reversed by a U.S. appeals court in April 2010. Today the same judge ruled that the NIH guidelines do not violate federal law. His ruling was largely made up from the reasoning and conclusions of the appeals court.
In the USA, human embryonic stem cell research is a controversial subject. Conservatives and religious people believe it is unethical to destroy human embryos, while scientists, among others believe it is ethical and that the research could help save many lives and cure people of some serious and devastating diseases and conditions. This controversy is much more pronounced and polarized in America than in other industrialized nations.
Researchers say stem cells can become effective treatments for people who are paralyzed from spinal cord injuries, as well as patients with diabetes, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, cancer, and several other diseases.
In 2009, soon after taking office, President Obama included funding for human embryonic stem cell research. He said the research would lead to cures for illnesses and conditions. His predecessor, President G. W. Bush had blocked federal funding for human embryonic stem research on new cell lines, for what appeared to be religious grounds.
The plaintiffs were two scientists - they had sued to block funding. Dr. James Sherley, from Boston Biomedical Research Institute, and Theresa Dsiehr, from AVM Biotechnology. They argued that it was illegal to use taxpayer's money for research that destroys human embryos The judge ruled against them.
The plaintiffs cited a 1996 Dickey-Wicker Amendment to US law, which prohibited using taxpayer's money to fund research that destroys embryos.
Their argument that the funding violated federal law was rejected. Lamberth said that he had to find the federal government "reasonably interpreted federal law to permit the funding." He disagreed with accusations that the federal government had acted capriciously and arbitrarily when creating the guidelines.
In his ruling, Lamberth wrote:
"Having carefully considered the motions, oppositions, replies, supplemental briefing, the entire record in this case, and the applicable law, the Court will grant defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment and deny plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment.
Alan Leschner, chief executive of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, said:
"The scientific consensus is that embryonic stem cell research is an extremely promising approach to developing more effective diagnostics and treatments for devastating conditions such as diabetes, spinal cord injuries and Parkinson's disease.
Judge Lamberth's injunction last year threatened to cause real harm to researchers in this field and discourage the next generation of stem cell scientists."
The NIH awarded approximately $200 million's worth of human-embryo research grants last (fiscal) year.
Embryonic stem cells can turn into any of over 200 different types of cells. Many of these cells can eventually repair/replace cells damaged by disease or injury.
Written by Christian Nordqvist