Labs engaged in embryonic stem cell research are scrambling this morning as they attempt to deal with the unexpected fall-out of a federal judge's ruling that President Barack Obama's executive order expanding the reach of the government's support for the field violated an earlier presidential ban on funding.
"This ruling means an immediate disruption of dozens of labs doing this work since the Obama administration made its order," stem cell scientist George Daley tells The New York Times. "I have had to tell everyone in my lab that when they feed their cells tomorrow morning, they better use media that has not been funded by the federal government."
One of Obama's first acts as president was to expand the use of federal grant money for ESC work, breaking the boundaries put in place by his predecessor, President George W. Bush. Under Bush, any scientist working with stem cell lines not specifically OK'd by the president had to essentially divide their labs, making certain that no equipment or manpower subsidized by the government was involved in the research. And the Alliance Defense Fund, which sought the temporary injunction, says that that is the situation once again. Many scientists don't know what to make of the decision.
"It's very disruptive, and will throw into doubt a lot of very important federally funded research," Martin Pera, director of the Eli and Edythe Broad Center for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, tells Bloomberg.
"If one step or 'piece of research' of an ESC research project results in the destruction of an embryo, the entire project is precluded from receiving federal funding," writes U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth.