Friday, August 24, 2012

The waiting ends: Federal funding of embryonic stem cell research deemed legal

Good news today regarding stem cell litigation that had put federal funding of embryonic stem cell research in jeopardy. Three judges on federal appeals court upheld a lower court’s July 2011 ruling that dismissed the lawsuit.

The lawsuit sought to prevent federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research, claiming that the research violated the Dickey-Wicker amendment that prohibits federal funding of research in which human embryos are destroyed.

The Dickey-Wicker amendment does prevent federal funding for the creation of human embryonic stem cell lines, which uses embryos left over from in vitro fertilization clinics. These 4-5 day old embryos are the source of virtually all human embryonic stem cell lines in use today.

However, federal agencies such as the National Institutes of Health – the major funder of biomedical research in the United States – have been able to fund research using human embryonic stem cell lines. Under president Bush, the number of lines that were available for federal funding was severely restricted. Under president Obama, many additional lines became available for federal funding once they had passed an ethics review. A registry of all lines approved for federal funding is available here.

CIRM has been able to fund the creation of new stem cell lines, several of which are also included on the NIH registry, and additional lines are listed here. Our Stem Cell Basics includes information about how new stem cell lines are created.

The judges for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit wrote three different rationales for their decision but were unanimous in the key decision, writing:
Because we conclude that the district court committed no error, we affirm the order and judgment under review.
Here's some history on the lawsuit from this blog:

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