Judges offer ESC research programs a reprieve

After painting a dire picture of the sudden uncertainty that has afflicted dozens of important embryonic stem cell research projects now under way, a three-judge federal appeals panel has decided that the NIH can continue to funnel cash to investigators until a legal challenge to the ban on government support is resolved.

Weeks ago a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order that threw the Obama administration's broad backing for ESC research in doubt. But after hearing that the move would destroy programs aimed at finding a new approach to treating some of the world's most terrible diseases, the panel was willing to relent until the legal wrangle could be heard out.

ESC advocates had thought the barriers to federal support of the work had been overcome by the new administration. But the judge's ruling revived all the old doubts and uncertainties that have plagued the field for years, leaving some of the country's top stem cell experts predicting that the U.S. would once again fall behind as other countries continued to push new research.

"We're heartened that the court will allow NIH and their grantees to continue moving forward while the appeal is resolved," said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.

- here's the story from the BBC