The high court rejected, without comment, the challengebrought by James Sherley and Theresa Deisher, who argued that human embryonicstem cell research violates federal law which bans researchers from creatingand destroying embryos for scientific purposes.
WASHINGTON—The U.S. Supreme Court has announced that it hasdenied certiorari in the long-running,contentious case of Sherley v. Sebelius, and will not be reviewing a challenge, which allows the earlierruling to stand and puts no further roadblocks in the path of human embryonicstem cell researchers.
"This is good news for patients," the Associationof American Medical Colleges said in a statement. "Research using hESCs(human embryonic stem cells) conducted under rigorous ethical standardscontinues to offer great promise in the search for cures and treatments for avariety of intractable diseases. With the legislative, regulatory and legalbarriers cleared, we hope the promise of hESC research can now berealized."
The case began back in 2009when Sherley and Deisher sued to block federal funding for such research,funding that was made possible shortly after President Obama signed anexecutive order that reversed a ban by the Bush administration on providingfederal funding for embryonic stem cell research. Sherley and Deisher, both of whom work with adult stemcells, began their case based on the argument that the President's expansion offederal funding for research involving human embryonic stem cells put them andothers who worked with adult stem cells at risk of being put out of the runningfor federal grants. The Dickey-Wicker law,established in 1996, prohibited taxpayer funding for any research that resultsin harm to an embryo.
In response to the challenge by Sherley and Deisher, apreliminary injunction was issued in August 2010 by a U.S. district court judgethat shut down federally funded human embryonic experiments. Sherley andDeisher's request for a review of the case came about when that decision wasoverturned by an appeals court.
After the 2010 ruling that blocked funding, a three-judgepanel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuitoverturned the ruling on the basis that the law was ambiguous. The paneldeferred to the National Institute of Health's interpretation that funding waslegal for research that used embryonic stem cells so long as the embryos werenot destroyed in the course of the research.
The controversy of the case has revolved around embryos andthe question of their viability and the ethics of using them in research. Humanembryonic stem cells, cells derived from eggs fertilized in vitro, have the ability to differentiate into nearly anytype of cell in the human body, which translates to exceptional potential foruse in a variety of disease treatments—including cancer, diabetes, Parkinson'sdisease, ALS and Alzheimer's disease—as well as regenerative medicine.