Scientists Outraged By Block on Stem Cell Research

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Fortunately, those who have already been granted NIH money for embryonic stem cell research will not have to "step away from the petri dish" because of this ruling, Collins said. They may continue their current research, but their chances of receiving funding for advanced stages of their research is in jeopardy, he added.

Susan Solomon, CEO of New York Stem Cell Foundation, argues that this ruling has the potential to interfere with not only all federally funded research involving embryonic stem cells, but with many privately-funded labs and projects as well.

"This will stop research all over the country. Even if you have private funding, there's an impact because many of your collaborators could be federally funded and affected by this ruling," she says.

Scientists said the ruling, which came as a surprise to many in the field, highlights the danger of having medical research policy that is subject to the whims of the judicial system.

Michael West, CEO of Embryonic Sciences, Inc. and adjunct professor of bioengineering at the University of California, Berkeley likens this kind of ruling to playing "political football" with medical research and says he is "ashamed of our government."

"These roadblocks and delays could well mean the unnecessary suffering or death of a fellow human being some day in the future. We should not allow political differences to encroach on our moral duty to alleviate human suffering when it is in our power to do so," he adds.

Moving Forward Despite Injunction

Researchers say that fortunately there are some loopholes even in the event that the ruling is not overturned.

New technology allows for obtaining embryonic stem cells without destroying the fetus. There are some 3,000 children alive today that have had stem cells removed in vitro in order to test for certain genetic conditions, says CEO and Chairman of Advanced Cell Technology Bill Caldwell, and the use of these stem cells for science avoids much of the controversy.

Other technology is able to induce adult stem cells, which would not be affected by the injunction, to behave like embryonic stem cells, says Bryon Petersen, associate professor of pathology, immunology and laboratory medicine at the University of Florida.

"I don't think Obama's executive order violates the law, but I [also] don't think the injunction is as big of a deal [as some are saying]. Most of the researchers I've talked to have gone away from the embryonic side, in favor of adult stem cells" that are modified to act like embryonic cells.

Bush to Obama, What Changed?

Stoddart says that the suit was intended to overturn Obama's executive order, not the policy that was in place during the Bush administration.

While the Bush administration allowed for federally funded research involving embryonic stem cell research, Obama's predecessor sanctioned only certain, already established stem cell "lines" so as not to support the future destruction of embryos in the name of federally-endorsed science.

Once a stem cell is harvested (and the embryo discarded or destroyed), a replenishable "line" or supply of cells can be derived from the original.

In March of 2009, Soon after entering office, President Obama revoked these limitations and deferred to the National Institute of Health to decide what was a "responsible, scientifically worthy human stem cell research."

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