Stem cell use can con­tinue

A judge per­mits govern­ment-funded re­search un­til the case is re­solved.

Los Angeles Times - - Latextar - David G. Sav­age re­port­ing from washington david.sav­age@latimes.com

Govern­ment-funded re­search on em­bry­onic stem cells can con­tinue, a U.S. ap­pel­late court said Tues­day, while lawyers ap­peal a judge’s de­ci­sion that found such re­search il­le­gal.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Ap­peals for the District of Columbia said Sept. 9 that it was tem­po­rar­ily lift­ing the judge’s ban on stem cell re­search. The same panel is­sued an or­der Tues­day say­ing the re­search could con­tinue un­til the case was re­solved.

White House Press Sec­re­tary Robert Gibbs ap­plauded the move, say­ing Pres­i­dent Obama had made “stem cell re­search and the pur­suit of ground-break­ing treat­ments and cures a top pri­or­ity when he took of­fice. We’re heart­ened that the court will al­low Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health and their grantees to con­tinue mov­ing for­ward” while the le­gal case pro­ceeds.

In Au­gust, U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lam­berth in Washington sur­prised the ad­min­is­tra­tion and many sci­en­tists by rul­ing that a 14year-old con­gres­sional spend­ing re­stric­tion pro­hib­ited fed­eral sup­port for all re­search on em­bry­onic stem cells.

The NIH had main­tained that the con­gres­sional spend­ing mea­sure pro­hib­ited the cre­ation of new em­bryos for re­search pur­poses, but it did not pro­hibit re­search on ex­ist­ing em­bryos.

Lam­berth said he thought the pro­hi­bi­tion was much broader than what the ad­min­is­tra­tion be­lieved, and he or­dered a halt to cur­rent re­search.

Dr. Francis Collins, the NIH di­rec­tor, said the govern­ment has in­vested $546 mil­lion in hu­man em­bry­onic stem cell re­search since 2001. He also said Lam­berth’s or­der would stop 24 re­search projects un­der­way.

The ap­peals court wasted lit­tle time in lift­ing Lam­berth’s or­der, and it has now de­cided to al­low the re­search to con­tinue un­til the le­gal case is re­solved. It could take a year or more for the ap­peals court to de­cide the mat­ter.

Two sci­en­tists had chal­lenged the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s stem cell fund­ing pol­icy, which was de­signed to ex­pand fed­eral sup­port of the con­tro­ver­sial re­search. The pol­icy al­lowed the use of stem cell lines de­rived from frozen em­bryos no longer needed for fer­til­ity treat­ments that were do­nated ac­cord­ing to strict eth­i­cal guide­lines.

Crit­ics view stem cell re­search as im­moral, and Lam­berth’s rul­ing was ap­plauded by Char­maine Yoest, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Amer­i­cans United for Life. “That ad­min­is­tra­tion pol­icy is in vi­o­la­tion of the law,” she said at the time.

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