Federal funding open for stem cell research

May 3, 2011 § 1 Comment

Ban on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research overturned

The U.S Federal Court of Appeals has overturned the August 2010 ban on federal funding of stem cell research, a move openly welcomed by the Obama Administration.

The administration attempted to lift the ban in 2009, where lawsuit Sherley v. Sebelius argued that the attempt violated the 1996 Dickey-Wicker amendment, which prohibits the use of stem cells from destroyed embryos. The ban was upheld until the Sherley v. Sebelius lawsuit could be resolved.

The Appeals Court decision put the Dickey-Wicker question to rest, ruling that the amendment was “ambiguous” and that the National Institutes of Health “seems reasonably to have concluded that although Dickey-Wicker bars funding for the destructive act of deriving an embryonic stem cell from an embryo, it does not prohibit funding a research project in which an ESC will be used,” according to the 2-1 decision.

“This is a victory not only for the scientists, but for the patients who are waiting for treatments and cures for terrible diseases,” said Arnold Kriegstein, MD, PhD, director of the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regeneration Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCSF. “This ruling allows critical research to move forward, enabling scientists to compare human embryonic stem cells to other forms of stem cells, such as the cell lines which are derived from skin cells, and to pursue potentially life-saving therapies based on that research.”

Professor Hank Greely of Stanford Law School in Palo Alto, California, thinks scientists can breathe easy. “No matter how you look at it this was a very good day for the human embryonic stem cell research community. The best chance plaintiffs had was with this [appeals court] panel, and everything from here out is low probability for them,” says Greely. Tony Mazzaschi of the Association of American Medical Colleges isn’t so sanguine. “This will be a protracted fight,” he predicts. “It’s going to be a long time before this is over.”

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