Wednesday, August 25, 2010

wrong direction on stem cells

Video - James Sherley one of two "scientists" opposing embryonic stem cell research.

NYTimes | In a huge overreach, a federal judge has decided that the legal interpretation that has governed federal support of embryonic stem cell research for more than a decade is invalid. If the ruling stands, it will be a serious blow to medical research.

The ruling by Judge Royce Lamberth would block President Obama’s expansion of federally funded research to include scores of new stem cell lines. It also appears to bar funding for research on the handful of lines that were approved by President George W. Bush in 2001. The Department of Justice has rightly announced that it will appeal.

Scientists hold high hopes that this research will lead to cures for devastating ailments like diabetes, Parkinson’s and spinal cord injuries. The stem cells are also useful for screening drugs to treat such diseases. Researchers who already have federal money in hand could likely continue their work. But those who need new funding for proposed or continuing research would have to find private sources or shut their experiments down.

The judge’s ruling came as he granted a preliminary injunction blocking President Obama’s 2009 executive order expanding this research to use stem cells derived from surplus embryos at fertility clinics that would otherwise be discarded or frozen in perpetuity.

Although the injunction is temporary, the ruling is ominous because it means that the judge believes the two plaintiffs — scientists who do research on adult stem cells — have a “strong likelihood of success” if this issue proceeds to trial.

The case involves an obscure rider, known as the Dickey-Wicker amendment, that has been attached to annual appropriations bills for the Department of Health and Human Services since 1996. It prohibits the use of federal funds to support research in which embryos are destroyed or discarded. It does not directly address research on stem cells derived from embryos, a field that developed later.