Money Matters - Simplified

US court bars stem cell research funding

Stem cells have the potency to be turn into almost any type of tissue in the body. Researchers hope that breakthrough in such research could pave the way to cure diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease, diabetes, spinal cord injuries and a host of other ailments.

A court order from a federal judge Monday temporarily barring the Obama administration government from funding the research on human embryonic stem cells has stunned one and all.

Obeying the court orders, the National Institutes of Health has declared that it will not award new grants or renew existing ones for such research cited by the court as one that “involves the destruction of embryos."

Judge Royce C. Lamberth, while issuing the preliminary injunction blocking, maintained that the stem cell research funding violated the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, a law incorporated in 1999 to put a stop to federal tax dollars from being used to annihilate human embryos.

"Frankly, I was stunned, as was virtually everyone else at the NIH yesterday, at the judicial decision. This decision has the potential to do serious harm to one of the most promising areas of biomedical research," said NIH Director Francis Collins.

Everything put in abeyance
Collins revealed that 50 requests that were being considered for new funding have been "pulled out of the stack."

These requested would not be assessed further till the time the new court order is not overturned, averred Collins.

"This is the worst possible situation. This is going to be extremely damaging," said Elaine Fuchs, president of the International Society for Stem Cell Research.

Close to 12 requests amounting to funding to the tune of $15 million to $20 million have already undergone the appraisal process of the NIH and were likely to be approved. However approval for these cases would also be put on hold.

Another 22 grants amounting to $54 million, due for renewal in September, shall also be cut off, Collins said. The 199 grants totaling close to $131 million, which have already been sanctioned and disbursed, shall continue.

Stunning judgment
"Human embryonic stem cell research done responsibly and ethically is one of the most exciting areas of research to come along in a long time," Collins said.

"The momentum has really been building. This decision potentially places all of this in jeopardy," opined Collins.

"This is the worst possible situation. This is going to be extremely damaging," said Elaine Fuchs, president of the International Society for Stem Cell Research.

The Justice Department intends to appeal the ruling in the general interest of the society.

Meanwhile, Bill Burton, White House deputy press secretary, claimed that the Obama administration is exploring all possible alternatives to ensure that this "critical lifesaving research" continues.

Burton however stopped short of specifying how the government will respond to the ruling.

Burton clarified that the ruling would put a stop to all stem cell research funding, even the one sanctioned under President George W. Bush.

"We're still reviewing the decision from this judge, but what we've seen so far, from what we can tell, this would also stop the research that President Bush had allowed to go forward early in his presidency," Burton said.