Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Embryonic stem cell funding allowed

A US court said government funding of embryonic stem cell research can continue, for now

The US government may resume funding of embryonic stem cell research for now, an appeals court said, but the short-term approval may be of little help to research scientists caught in a legal battle that has just begun.

It is far from certain that scientists will continue to get federal money as they struggle to decide what to do with research that is hard to start and stop.

After US District Court Judge Royce Lamberth issued a preliminary order barring the funding on August 23, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) suspended work on funding new research projects on embryonic stem cells.

While NIH did not immediately comment on the temporary stay from the appeals court, the government's process for approving these grants is unlikely to resume before a final court resolution.

With appeals, that could be many months off.

"No way this would be a scientific reprieve," said Patrick Clemins of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Scientists who already received taxpayer money for stem cell experiments can continue their work until their funding runs out, but 22 projects that are due to get annual payments in September were told after Mr Lamberth's order that they would have to find other money.

Most of the researchers have multiple sources of funding and are now working to separate what they can and cannot continue, Mr Clemins said.

Medical researchers value stem cells because they are master cells that can turn into any tissue of the body.

They believe research could eventually lead to cures for spinal cord injuries, Parkinson's disease and other ailments.