In response to a judge's order last week, the National Institutes of Health today ordered an immediate halt to all human embryonic stem cell research conducted on the NIH campus. Jocelyn Kaiser of Science Insider calls the move "unprecedented:"
The shutdown is the first immediate halt to research since Lamberth issued the preliminary injunction. NIH Director Francis Collins has said that extramural researchers can continue their projects for now and that the injunction will affect only future grant payments. ("Intramural" means researchers in labs on the NIH campus; "extramural" refers to researchers at universities and other outside institutions who receive NIH grants.) But some biomedical research lobbyists worry that that interpretation of the ruling may have been too optimistic, and a shutdown of all ongoing NIH-funded hESC research could be imminent.
Although the decision today doesn't directly affect Stanford scientists, it is a reminder of the tenuousness of federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research. Philip Pizzo, MD, the medical school dean, says:
Once again the politics of stem cell research has the prospect of entering center stage - just when it seemed that we had moved into a new theater.
Previously: Stanford stem cell expert weighs on on district court ruling, Stumbling stem-cell policy regains footing, First human embryonic stem cell lines approved for funding under new guidelines and Stem cell guidelines under fire