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Stem Cell Injunction Appealed By Justice Dept

September 1, 2010

The Obama administration appealed Tuesday a ruling that blocked federal funding of stem cell research of human embryos, asking a US judge who issued the injunction to halt the process pending the appeal.

The Justice Department asked Judge Royce Lamberth to stay the injunction he imposed last week after two researchers filed charges over the administration’s policy, saying it violated US law because it involved the destruction of embryos and it also made it difficult for them to receive federal research grants.

The ruling was a blow to Obama’s bid to expand stem-cell research, a controversial area of study that gives promising research into diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

In a 23-page filing, lawyers for the Justice Department said the stay was needed “in order to avoid terminating research projects midstream, invalidating results in process and impeding or negating years of scientific progress toward finding new treatments for devastating illnesses…through research involving human embryonic stem cells.”

If Judge Lamberth declines to stay his ruling, the department could file the request with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

The two researchers had argued that the new policy expanding National Institutes of Health funding for human embryonic stem cell research made it harder for them to win grants for their adult stem cell research, an argument the Justice Department disputed.

The two researcher’s “remote economic self-interests do not outweigh the harm the injunction will cause NIH, the hundreds of affected human embryonic stem cell researchers, and the millions of individuals who hold out hope that human embryonic stem cell research will lead to the cure for, or treatment of, their currently incurable illnesses,” said the department.

The administration pointed to two dozen projects up for extra federal funding between now and the end of September and said the benefits from the research could be lost without added funding.

The Justice Department asked Judge Lamberth to rule by September 7 on the request to lift the injunction during the appeal.

President Obama opened the door for further funding of human embryonic stem cell research once he took office in 2009, opening up previous limitations on research put in place by the Bush administration.

Judge Lamberth ruled last week, however, that government funding for embryonic stem cell research was barred by a 1996 law that prohibited the use of federal money for research in which embryos are destroyed.

Stem cells are the building blocks of the body. Tissues and organs derived from embryos can develop into any type of tissue and are considered especially promising for research.

Those who oppose the research, however, say destroying an embryo is, in fact, destroying human life.

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