At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which isolated the world's first human embryonic stem cells, "there are approximately 18 investigators directing federally funded grants that use human embryonic stem cells ... including myself," said Kamp, an associate professor of medicine and physiology. "All of these grants are in jeopardy over the coming year. In addition, grants in review have been put on hold. Researchers will look for alternative scientific approaches and sources of funding, but all of this will take precious time and effort."
Among those grants is one for using stem cells to treat retinal disorders and another for using them to investigate Down Syndrome, said UW-Madison spokeswoman Susan L. Smith.
Jonathan Moreno, a professor of medical ethics at the University of Pennsylvania, and an advisor to the Gates Foundation on embryonic stem cell regulation, has warned repeatedly that such limitations will send stem cell research overseas, especially to Asian countries that are happy to roll out the welcome mat to U.S. researchers whose work has been thwarted at home.
Kamp agreed that the ruling could leave U.S. researchers at a competitive disadvantage. "Human embryonic stem cells have stood the test of time and are the current gold standard for human master stem cells. Losing the ability to compare other stem cells to this gold standard puts federally funded investigators at a scientific disadvantage," Kamp said. "Overall, U.S. researchers will be at a competitive disadvantage compared to others in many parts of the world."
In March 2009, President Obama honored a campaign promise by revoking limitations on the use of human embryonic stem cells imposed by his predecessor, which only allowed experiments involving embryonic stem cells lines approved by President George W. Bush. In July of last year, the NIH followed up, saying researchers could use embryos created for reproductive purposes that were no longer needed.
Lamberth's Aug. 23 injunction was part of a case brought by some Christian organizations and two researchers, James L. Sherley of the Boston Biomedical Research Institute in Watertown, Mass., and Theresa Deisher of AVM Biotechnology in Seattle, who last Friday said they planned to file on Sept. 10 a motion for a judge's summary judgement, which they hoped would bring a quick decision and keep the case from going to trial.