Ruling Upholds Stem Cell Funding Ban
Special Report - August 30, 2010
The impact of a recent federal court ruling that federal funds cannot be used for research on human embryonic stem cells (ESCs) will deny funding to some existing projects in North Carolina, while having no affect on the extensive non-embryonic stem cell research in the state. Chief Judge Royce C. Lamberth of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia issued a preliminary injunction on August 23 against the National Institutes for Health (NIH), barring the agency from distributing taxpayer funds to research that involves the destruction of living human embryos.
The case, brought by Advocates International (AI), Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher (GD&C) on behalf of several researchers and doctors argued that the NIH “Guidelines for Human Stem Cell Research” violated federal law. The controversial guidelines were adopted on July 7, 2009 in response to President Obama’s executive order expanding the ESC lines eligible for federal funding. The suit argued that the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, which has been included in every HHS Appropriations Bill since 1996 to prohibit federal funds from going to embryo destruction, made the guidelines illegal. In his decision, Judge Lamberth said, “as demonstrated by the plain language of the statute, the unambiguous intent of Congress is to prohibit the expenditure of federal funds on ‘research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed.’” The Court found that “ESC research is clearly research in which a human embryo is destroyed…. ESC research necessarily depends upon the destruction of a human embryo,” and therefore issued a preliminary injunction.
According to the Raleigh News & Observer, the Human Embryonic Stem Cell Core Facility at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) “maintains a stock of cells and makes them available to UNC researchers for approved research projects.” About 60 percent of the research done at UNC began after President Obama’s 2009 executive order. The NIH has indicated that 22 ESC projects scheduled for annual checks in September will lose their federal funding, including at least one at UNC. Bob Lowman, UNC-CH’s associate vice chancellor of research, told the News & Observer that he is seeking other funding sources for current research projects that will be impacted by the loss of federal funding.
In contrast to UNC-CH, the Winston-Salem Journal reports that Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center and its affiliates will remain unaffected because the Wake Forest Institute of Regenerative Medicine uses amniotic stem cells, induced pluripotent cells, and stem cells from the patient’s own skin and organs.
Embryonic Stem Cell Trials Approved - August 4, 2010
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