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US stem cell funding saga rumbles on

13 December 2010
Appeared in BioNews 588

The US courts are currently attempting to decide whether human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research may continue to receive federal funding, after a lawsuit was brought against the US Government last year.

The US Government, under George W Bush, restricted such research to twenty already established hESC cell lines. This restriction was reversed by the Obama administration in 2009, allowing research to continue on multiple hESC lines so long as the private sector provided the stem cells and the National Institute of Health (NIH) issued new guidelines. In 2010, the NIH spent $200 million on hESC related research. Since 2002, the US government has similarly spent $546 million.

In 2009, two scientists - James Sherley and Theresa Deisher, who both work on adult stem cell research - filed a lawsuit against the US government for offering federal funding to hESC research. They said this leaves less funding for their work on adult stem cells. Federal district judge Royce Lambert agreed that the research was illegal and put an injunction against further research. The judiciary allowed research to continue while an appeal against that injunction was heard by three judges at the US Courts of Appeal for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Sherley and Deisher's lawyer, Thomas Hunger, said that the funding is in contravention of the 1996 Dickey-Wicker Amendment, which requires that no federal funding go towards the destruction of human embryos. He argued that even if the researchers themselves don't destroy embryos, the fact that they purchase the embryonic cells for their federally funded research incentives the private sector to destroy embryos to provide them with the hESCs they want.

Beth Brinkmann from the Justice Department, said that there was a distinction between the research and the production of these cell lines. Disagreeing, Judge Douglas Ginsburg said: 'There's research into making laboratory equipmentand then there's research into using laboratory equipment'. No matter who wins this round, the losing side will almost certainly appeal, and experts believe this will lead to the issue being debated by the Supreme Court.


Appeals Court Tackles Stem-Cell Dispute .
Wall Street Journal |  6 December 2010
Key oral arguments made in stem cell case
The Great Beyond |  6 December 2010
Stem Cell Funding Has Day in Court
ScienceInsider |  6 December 2010
U.S. Stem-Cell Research Attacked in Appeals Court
Businessweek |  6 December 2010
19 December 2011 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
A survey of over 200 human embryonic stem cell (hESC) researchers in the US has found almost four in ten respondents had experienced delays in obtaining cell lines and over one-quarter said they were unable to obtain a required cell line at all....
26 September 2011 - by Dr Nadeem Shaikh 
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 (ES) cell lines have filed a notice of appeal. They seek to reverse the decision made against them by a district judge in July...
19 August 2011 - by MacKenna Roberts 
Should human embryonic stem cell research be deemed unethical for its embryo destruction? The US court decision in Sherley v Sebelius on 27 July 2011 to allow federal funding of this research set a global precedent. The meaning of research was divided into two categories: that which directly involves embryo destruction and that which does not...
1 August 2011 - by Dr Rebecca Robey 
A District Court judge in the US has dismissed a lawsuit that sought to ban federal funding for human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research. The decision, by Judge Royce Lambeth, is the latest development in the case of Sherley v Sebelius – a landmark lawsuit filed against the US's state-funded National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 2009...
11 July 2011 - by Nisha Satkunarajah 
New legislation to permit federal funds to be used for research on embryos, which would otherwise be destroyed following IVF, will be introduced to the US Congress....
13 September 2010 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
A federal appeals court in the US has ruled that federal funding for embryonic stem cell research may continue and an injunction placed on the funding by a lower court last month is temporarily suspended...
31 August 2010 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
A ruling of a district federal judge has halted federally-funded embryonic stem cell research in the United States...
4 May 2010 - by Dr Nadeem Shaikh 
US-based scientists working on embryonic stem cell (ES cell) research are relieved that the most important cell lines in their field have been approved for research by new government guidelines. During the Bush administration, US government funding for research involving ES cells was restricted to just 20 cell lines, all of which were in existence before 9 August 2001...
19 April 2010 - by Nishat Hyder 
Over a year since US President Barack Obama announced his decision to allow federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, the widely utilised cell lines, H9 and H7, are still weeks away from receiving federal funding approval. The H9 and H7 cell lines were derived and approved under the Bush administration and are currently owned by WiCell Research Institute in Madison, Wisconsin. However, for months now the fate of these two much used lines has been uncertain. According to...
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