Court Temporarily Lifts Stem Cell Funding Ban

Amie Newman

A federal appeals court temporarily lifted the ban on funding for stem cell research today.

A panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in DC, today, temporarily lifted a ban on federal funding for stem cell research, much to the relief of researchers around the country.

The court, reports the Washington Post,

…granted a request from the Justice Department to stay an injunction issued Aug. 23 blocking the funding. In a major victory for supporters of the research, the court said the Obama administration could resume funding the research pending a full appeal of the case.

U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth, ruling in a lawsuit filed by two researchers working on alternatives to the cells, said the funding violated a federal rule that prohibits federal tax money from being used for research that involves the destruction of human embryos.

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Opponents of the ban were calling it, “a major setback for one of the most promising areas of biomedical research.” The NIH had placed a moratorium on any new funding for research, leaving many researchers “scrambling”:

Pursuant to a court order issued August 23, 2010, NIH is not accepting submissions of information about human embryonic stem cell lines for NIH review. All review of human embryonic stem cell lines under the NIH Guidelines is suspended.

ScienceInsider notes that the decision was swift:

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit took less than a day to respond to an appeal filed late yesterday by the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Those who support the lifting of the injunction against stem cell funding are cautiously optimistic:

Lisa Hughes, president of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research, says her organization is very pleased that the appeals court has taken the step.

“It is crucial that federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research be restored permanently and this stay is a step in that direction,” Hughes said in a statement. “While this issue continues to be argued in the courts, we call on Congress to move swiftly to resolve this issue and secure the future of this important biomedical research.”

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