US court stops federal funding of embryonic stem cell study

US courtWashington, Aug 24 : A US federal judge has issued a preliminary injunction stopping expanded federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research, which was part of a new policy outlined by the Obama administration last year.

US District Judge Royce Lamberth Monday issued an order barring the Health and Human Services Department and the National Institutes for Health (NIH) from conducting studies on new human embryonic cell lines.

In his 15-page order, Lamberth cited the 1996 Dickey Wicker Amendment, which prohibited the use of federal funds for "the creation of a human embryo or embryos for research purposes", or "research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed, discarded, or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death greater than that allowed for research on foetuses in utero".

The judge noted that the US Congress has included this amendment in every appropriations bill for the Health and Human Services Department since 1996 without substantive alteration.

"The language of the statute reflects the unambiguous intent of Congress to enact a broad prohibition of funding research in which a human embryo is destroyed," Lamberth said.

The suit was brought by researchers from several Christian groups who said that human embryonic stem cell research involves the destruction of human embryos, and that the new NIH guidelines for human stem cell research were "contrary to law".

Last March, President Barack Obama reversed an eight-year government block on federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research, signing an executive order that overturned former president George W. Bush's policy limiting research on then-existing cells, which was put in place during his first year in office in 2001.

Bush had restricted the use of government money to research on existing colonies of stem cells and barred the use of such money to create new colonies.

The lines are developed from stem cells that are taken from human embryos and can be kept alive indefinitely in solution. They can in turn transform into an estimated 200 cell types in the body.

Proponents of embryonic stem cell research believe it could lead to cures for a variety of diseases, including cancer, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, diabetes, spinal cord injuries. But conservatives consider the destruction of human embryos involved in the process to be immoral. (DPA)