Yesterday, Stanford formally opened the nation's largest stem cell research facility. Today, opponents of human embryonic stem cell research filed their latest argument in an attempt to block federal funding for such research. A brief summary of the most recent events in the U.S. Court of Appeals case can be found on the Nature blog The Great Beyond:
The 96-page document filed today covers essentially the same ground as before. The plaintiffs argue that they are likely to prevail in the case because the government’s policy contradicts the Dickey-Wicker amendment, a law forbidding funding for research that involves the destruction of human embryos, and that the National Institutes of Health ignored a slew of public comments against the policy, therefore failing to follow mandated procedures. They also contest the government’s claims about the harm caused by the injunction and dismiss as “baseless” the arguments in a brief filed last week by the University of California in support of the NIH.
The immediate aim of today's filing is to reinstate a temporary injunction barring such funding while U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth considers the arguments of both supporters and opponents of the research. That could occur within the next few weeks. Bringing the injunction back could throw research around the country back into the chaos of the last days of August, when the case was first filed.
But researchers are most worried about Lamberth's final decision, which is also expected to come soon. A ruling against federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research could do more than send them back to the days of the Bush administration, when only a few cell lines were eligible. Depending on Lamberth's interpretation, he could conceivably bar federal funding for research on any human embryonic stem cell line - regardless of its origin or past funding history. A fantastic history of the entire case can be found at Nature's Stem Cell Injunction Special.
Previously: U.S. Court of Appeals suspends ban on stem cell funding, Request for stay of stem cell injunction denied, Judge Lamberth's stem cell opinion is disappointingly bad, Stem cell ruling throws Stanford researcher's project into limbo, AAMC urges Congress to reinstate federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research, and Stanford stem cell expert weighs in on district court ruling