Appeals panel endorses federal spending on embryonic stem cell R&D

Opponents to embryonic stem cell research have been dealt a serious blow. A federal appeals court panel has concluded that ESC foes are unlikely to prevail in their suit to block federal funding for scientists in the field, rejecting a district judge's preliminary injunction that would have frozen the stream of cash that keeps a number of labs in operation. The 2-to-1 ruling quickly won praise from the Obama administration, which moved to pump new federal funds into ESC work shortly after the election.

"Responsible stem cell research has the potential to treat some of our most devastating diseases and conditions and offers hope to families across the country and around the world," said White House spokesman Nick Papas.

Opponents claimed that federal funding violated a federal law banning the use of government funds involving the destruction of embryos, an argument that won over District Judge Royce Lamberth, who issued a surprise injunction. Those same opponents say they will now take their case to the full appeals court while pursuing their full range of objections at the district level.

The ruling was hailed in California, where state funding has helped ignite a wave of stem cell research work. "This ruling allows critical research to move forward," USCF scientist Arnold Kriegstein said. "It is a victory not only for the scientists but for the patients who are waiting for treatments and cures for terrible diseases."

Amy Comstock Rick, who helms the Parkinson's Action Network, told the AP that "a preliminary injunction ruling that is normally the early phase of the case, it appears to us that the court gave pretty clear direction on how it interprets federal law. We hope it puts this issue to rest."

- here's the story from the San Jose Mercury News
- here's the AP report

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