Microscope view of human stem cells
The Court of Appeals has ruled that research involving embryonic stem cells can get federal funding. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

The U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled that embryonic stem cell research can receive federal funding. The ruling reverses a District Court ruling from 2010 that halted any federal funding being diverted to research involving embryonic stem cells, which are harvested from a human embryo. Stem cell research is still a hotly contested issue.

National Institute of Health to receive funding for stem cell research

The U.S. Court of Appeals recently lifted an injunction against federal funding being devoted to human embryonic stem cell research. The National Institutes of Health had been enjoined by a district court judge’s ruling last year, according to MSNBC, that the rules the NIH observed regarding stem cell research were not in keeping with federal law regarding human embryonic stem cell, or hESC, research. A law on stem cell research passed in 1996, and a provision referred to as the Dickey-Wicker amendment prevents any federal funding for research that results in the destruction of the embryo. A human egg, or ova, becomes an embryo once fertilized.

A complicated tissue

This stem cell research lawsuit was brought by Doctors Theresa Deisher and James Shirley, who according to ABC, sued the NIH and asked for an injunction in 2010 because both are involved in research that uses adult stem cells rather than embryonic cells and thus would have to compete for funding. Since embryonic stem cells are the building blocks of everything in the human body, and adult cells have more limited uses, adult cell research is at a severe competitive disadvantage. The injunction was granted in August of 2010, and the ruling was appealed by the Obama administration to the Court of Appeals. A three-judge panel overturned the injunction because the plaintiffs who sued for the injunction would not win the lawsuit that is still pending. The Drs. Deisher and Shirley may make another appeal to the Court of Appeals, or possibly to the Supreme Court.

The controversy

The controversy concerning stem cells is that embryonic stem cells are harvested from human embryos, which are fertilized human ovum, commonly referred to as eggs. Stem cell research often results in the destruction of the embryo. Tthe basis of the objection is that this is causing the “death” of a fertilized egg. Many are taken from embryos left over from in vitro fertilization treatments, according to Reuters. However, few naturally fertilized ova become embryos and successfully gestate. Embryonic stem cells are the building blocks of everything in the human body, and use of hESC could potentially result in therapies that regenerate organs or cure cancer.

Sources

MSNBC: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/42821180/ns/health-cloning_and_stem_cells

ABC: http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/court-victory-supporters-federally-funded-embryonic-stem-cell/story?id=13492261

Reuters: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/04/29/us-usa-stemcells-idUSTRE73S55R20110429

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