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Federal judge denies motion to lift stem cell funding block

A federal judge Tuesday denied a motion to lift an injunction he issued two weeks ago barring the government from funding research involving human embryonic stem cells.

U.S. Chief District Judge Royce C. Lamberth of the District of Columbia rejected a request by the Obama administration to lift the temporary injunction he issued pending an appeal of the decision.

But Lamberth indicated that his injunction was less restrictive than had been originally interpreted by the Obama administration.

"Defendants are incorrect about much of their 'parade of horribles' that will supposedly result from this Court's preliminary injunction," Lamberth wrote. The ruling did not necessarily apply to research that had been funded under guidelines issued during the administration of President Bush or that had previously been "awarded and funded," Lamberth wrote. He also indicated he could make a final decision on the case soon.

Nevertheless, the decision marks a disappointment for supporters of the research, who had hoped the judge would grant the motion, allowing funding to continue under new, much less restrictive guidelines that the Obama administration had put in place until the case is finally decided.

Lamberth issued the injunction Aug. 23 in a case brought by two researchers who work on alternatives to the cells. Lamberth ruled the funding violated a federal law known as the Dickey-Wicker amendement, which bars federal tax money to be used for any research involving the destruction of human embryos.

"In this Court's view, a stay would flout the will of Congress, as this Court understands what Congress has enacted in the Dickey-Wicker Amendment," Lamberth wrote in Tuesday's ruling. "Congress has mandated that the public interest is served by preventing taxpayer funding of research that entails the destruction of human embryos."

The original decision was hailed by opponents of the research, who argue it is immoral to destroy human embryos. But it was condemned by supporters and advocates for patients, who said it was a major setback for one of the most promising areas of biomedical research.

In response to the order, the National Institutes of Health announced it was suspending consideration of any new grants for such research. Any researchers who had already received funding could continue their work, but their grants would not be renewed when they come up for routine review, the NIH said. As a result, hundreds of scientists around the country are scrambling to try to figure out how they are going to continue their research.

The Justice Department asked that the injunction be lifted as it appeals the decision, arguing the halt to the funding was causing irreparable harm to researchers, the federal government and patients hoping for cures.

Lisa Hughes, president of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research, the group that has led lobbying efforts to for greater stem cell funding, issued the following statement:

"We are disappointed with today's Order to deny NIH's Emergency MotionTo Stay Preliminary Injunction Pending Appeal issued by Judge Lamberth. CAMR's primary goal is to permanently restore embryonic stem cell research freedom as it existed before August 23, 2010. We look forward to NIH's guidance on how best to interpret today's order."

The NIH referred questions to the Justice Department.The Justice Department is expected to appeal the decision, but a spokesman late Tuesday said the government was still reviewing it.

By Rob Stein  |  September 7, 2010; 4:51 PM ET
Categories:  Stem cells  
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The religious right is again dictating science policy. The vast majority of embryos used are slated for disposal and there is no reason why these materials should not be used to save future lives. Get religion out of government!!

Posted by: jeffl240 | September 7, 2010 7:00 PM | Report abuse

President Obama was not dealt a blow by yet another activist conservative republicon judicial appointee legislating from the bench. The 75% of Americans who favor stem cell research were dealt a blow. Our Constitution separation of powers was dealt a blow. And most importantly the millions suffering from spinal injuries, genetic disorders, alzheimers, Parkinsons, Downs, cancer were dealt a blow. And of course science and modern life itself is once again under assault by the republicon party.

Posted by: John1263 | September 7, 2010 8:14 PM | Report abuse

Throw Royce Lamberth off the Bench. This man is in contempt of our national security, and a disgrace to our Justice System. Millions will die because of his irresponsible, contorted, biased judicial unreasonability. How dare Royce Lamberth attempt to overturn the President of the United States? How dare he take a swipe at millions of sick and dying Americans whose last and only hope lies in the life-saving technology of embryonic stem cell research? How dare this incompetent, cloak-robed terror, Royce Lamberth, align himself with the sleazy profiteering of two greedy wannabees? Embryonic Stem Cell research is a discovery whose time has now come. The disease cures from this new science will sweep the entire globe. Let no fool judge twist the law to prevent this life-saving science. Congress has the power to act. We need some good leaders to stand up and be counted.

Posted by: carolynwhitney26 | September 7, 2010 8:56 PM | Report abuse

Embryonic stem cell research is a farce and simply a boondoggle for researchers to get grant money. Non-embyonic stem cell lines have proven much more valuable and productive. So those of you who are claiming this honorable, heroic judge is preventing sick people from getting 'cured', you are just plain wrong and don't know the facts. We're tired of Obama trying to circumvent the American people's wishes, the law, and the Constitution. He's a one termer. What a dunce.

Posted by: DaMan2 | September 7, 2010 10:14 PM | Report abuse

DaMan2: It is you who are grossly misinformed. Researchers at Harvard, Yale, Stanford, NIH, to name just a few, have termed embryonic stem-cell research unique in its class, far superior to all other stem-cell lines. Check your facts to avoid embarassing yourself. While you are entitled to an opinion, you are not entitled to disseminate false information.

Posted by: carolynwhitney26 | September 7, 2010 11:19 PM | Report abuse

A Primer on the advantages of Embryonic Stem Cells

"Embryonic stem cells have many seeming magical properties. They can develop into all of the tissue types in the body. They can also proliferate indefinitely in the laboratory.

Most cells die after awhile when you try to grow them in the lab, but embryonic stem cells do not and scientists can share them, almost like sourdough starter for bread.

This makes them superior to cells offered as "alternatives" to embryonic stem cells, such as induced pluripotent stem cells or adult stem cells."

Posted by: carolynwhitney26 | September 8, 2010 12:24 AM | Report abuse

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