US funding ban on human embryonic stem cell research lifted

3 May 2011

After temporarily blocking an injunction preventing federally funded human embryonic stem (HES) cell research in the US (see previous news), the Court of Appeals for Washington, D.C has now ruled that such research is legal and can continue.
Two of the three panel judges concluded that it was reasonable to interpret the existing law against federal funding for research in which embryos are destroyed as meaning that only research involving the direct destruction of embryos is prohibited from funding.  Last year’s injunction stated that allowing federal funding of research using stem cells originally derived from embryos on the basis that private funding had been used for the original creation of stem cell lines (and concomitant destruction of embryos) was invalid (see previous news).
Comment: The decision is good news for HES cell researchers, although in many ways the damage has been done as uncertainty over federal funding continues; appeals against this most recent ruling could still be lodged. President of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CRIM) Dr Alan Trounson said that "The fight for embryonic stem cell research in the United States is not over", noting also that "A stop-start approach is not good for research".  

The state-funded CRIM is apparently attempting to keep its options open with respect to stem cell research, as it is reportedly considering funding induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell banking projects. Research using iPS cells is considered by many to offer an ethically acceptable alternative to potential HES cell therapeutics, but there are significant scientific barriers to application, and some also fear that over emphasis on HES cell research could actively hinder funding for the development of iPS cell alternatives. 

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