01 October 2010

Welcome breather for US stem cell research

On Tuesday an appeals court gave US stem cell researchers a boost by permanently lifting a ban imposed on their work in August by a federal judge, reports CNN.
The decision by the three appeals court judges following oral evidence from both sides on Monday means that, for now, federally funded researchers can continue their work on human embryonic stem cells (hESCs), which have the potential to turn into all tissues of the body.
The decision lifts the uncertainty facing many researchers affected by the ruling.
The ban in August, announced by district court judge Royce Lamberth, brought all federally funded projects involving hESCs to a grinding halt. Lamberth reasoned that because extraction of hESCs involves destruction of human embryos, work on them violates a legal amendment in 1995 forbidding funding of any research involving destruction of embryos.
After two weeks of uncertainty, the ban was temporarily lifted, but it took today's appeal court decision to lift Lamberth's ban completely.
But the reprieve may yet prove to be temporary. The future of government-funded hESC research in the US won't be fully resolved until a fully fledged court case in which the US government appeals to have the ban on funding of hESC research completely lifted.

**Published in "New Scientist"

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