26 September 2011
ByAppeared in BioNews 626
Lawyers acting for two US scientists who sought to challenge the legality of a decision by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to allow research on new embryonic stem cell (ES cell) lines have filed a notice of appeal. They seek to reverse the decision made against them by a district judge in July.
The NIH issued new guidelines which allowed federal funding for research using cell lines already established from embryos, as long as they avoided destroying any new embryos.
This decision was challenged in the courts by two plaintiffs, Dr James Sherley from Boston Biomedical Research Institute, and Theresa Deisher from AVM Biotechnology, who argued that NIH policy violated a 1996 law which prohibits using federal funding for research which involves the destruction of embryos. They also said the money would be better spent on research using adult stem cells.
At the time, Judge Royce Lambeth agreed, and granted a temporary injunction on such research in August 2010. But this was challenged in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, where judges voted 2-1 in favour of the NIH, ending the injunction.
When the case went back to Judge Lambeth, he acknowledged he had little choice but to follow the lead of the Appeals court and rule in favour of allowing research. He said his court had 'become a grudging partner in a bout of 'linguistic jujitsu'.
The US Government contends the wording of the 1996 law refers only to the process of deriving stem cells from embryos, during which the embryo is destroyed, and not to subsequent research on those cell lines.