Treatments

Justice Department Appeals Stem Cell Funding Stay

Lawyers for the Justice Department have made their case for a federal judge to restore funding of research with embryonic human stem cells.

Last month, a judge's decision temporarily blocked the government from funding that sort of work while a bigger lawsuit brought by scientists who work with adult stem cells proceeds. The decision has cast doubt on the future of a wide range of research using embryonic cells.

In arguments filed Tuesday, the Justice Department said the injunction should be lifted to " avoid terminating research projects midstream, invalidating results in process and impeding years of scientific progress toward finding new treatments for devastating illnesses" ranging from diabetes to spinal cord injuries.

In support, the government lawyers attached a 12-page statement from National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins on what's at stake if the funding block continues.

The high points:

  • NIH has sunk $546 million into human embryonic stem cell research since 2002, and the payoff from the early work is now in jeopardy.
  • Adult stem cells, alternatives to the controversial human embryonic ones, have been known for 50 years, yet in all that time researchers have been unable to overcome "serious limitations" on their use.
  • Even temporary funding stoppages could seriously set back research that has been years in the making because it's hard to restart.

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