Court lifts ban on stem cell research funding

On April 29, an appeals court rendered a verdict in a controversial case invoking the question of whether the United States federal government should provide funding to researchers engaged in human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research.

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WASHINGTON, D.C.—On April 29, an appeals court rendered a verdict in a controversial caseinvoking the question of whether the United States federal government shouldprovide funding to researchers engaged in human embryonic stem cell (hESC)research.
 
 
In the latest development in the case of Sherley, et. al., v. Sebelius, et al., theU.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia's ruling sided with theObama Administration in an ongoing debate over whether the U.S. governmentshould help fund research that involves the destruction of embryos—which theplaintiffs in the case argued is a violation of congressional spending laws.
 
 
Specifically, the lead plaintiffs in the case—adult stemcell researchers Dr. James L. Sherley, a biological engineer at BostonBiomedical Research Institute, and Dr. Theresa Deisher, research anddevelopment director at AVM Biotechnology LLC in Seattle—alleged that an ordersigned last year by President Barack Obama which lifted a ban on federal fundingfor eSC research violates the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, a law that prohibits the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from using appropriatedfunds for the creation of human embryos for research purposes, or for researchin which human embryos are destroyed.
 
The plaintiffs further argued thatObama's order has intensified competition for the limited government dollars,making it more difficult for them to get funding for their own work.
 
Last August, federal district judge Royce Lamberth, findingmerit in these arguments, temporarily brought federal funding forembryo-destructive research to a halt. A month later, the U.S. Court of Appealstemporarily suspended Lamberth's injunction until the case could be decided.
 
That decision reversed Lamberth's ruling, saying it would impose a substantialhardship on stem cell researchers who have multi-year projects alreadyunderway. The court's 2-1 decision also found that the funding of hESC researchis permissible under Dickey-Wicker, as Congress has renewed the amendment everyyear with the knowledge that it funds such research.
 
The court's decision was not unanimous. In a dissentingopinion, Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson called her colleagues' separation of thederivation of hESCs "linguistic jujitsu" and said the other judges "strain mightilyto find the ambiguity the government presses."
 
The White House reacted swiftly to the decision: "Today'sruling is a victory for our scientists and patients around the world who standto benefit from the groundbreaking medical research they're pursuing,"said Nicholas Papas, a White House spokesman.
  
But while the court's decision green-lights once again theuse of federal tax dollars for hESC research, it may not be the last word inthis contentious debate, as the plaintiffs in the case can both continue theiroriginal case before Lamberth as well as appeal this ruling to the full appealscourt or to the U.S. Supreme Court. 


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