Supreme Court Rejects Challenge Stem Cell Funding
January 8, 2013

Supreme Court Rejects Challenge To Funding For Stem Cell Research

Connie K. Ho for — Your Universe Online

In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court announced on Monday that it would not hear an appeal from two scientists attempting to derail government-funded research with embryonic stem cells.

Scientists claim that research with embryonic stem cells can potentially help to provide new information on possible treatments for those who suffer from a variety of conditions including spinal injuries and Parkinson´s disease.

In 2010, funding for the research project was discontinued due to an order by a federal judge in Washington. The order was the result of a congressional ban that stated that funding could not be used for research where “human embryos were destroyed.” That ruling was overturned last year by a federal appeals court which stated that the ban referred only to research where human embryos were destroyed in the process of obtaining stem cells. That decision was affirmed by Chief Judge David Sentelle, Judge Karen Henderson and Judge Janice Rogers Brown.

The scientists who proposed the appeal worked with adult stem lines and were represented by a number of groups, such as the Law of Life Project. The group´s general counsel Samuel Casey at one point went so far as to call human stem cell research “an ethical tragedy as well as a waste of the taxpayer´s money.”

The case came in response to an Executive Order (EO) by President Barack Obama. In 2009, Obama issued EO 13505 titled “Removing Barriers to Responsible Scientific Research Involving Stem Cells.” With the order, there were certain changes made to the way that the National institutes of Health (NIH) could support and complete research on human stem cells.

“This Order is an important step in advancing the cause of science in America. But let´s be clear: promoting science isn´t just about providing resources — it is also about protecting free and open inquiry. It is about letting scientists like those here today do their jobs, free from manipulation or coercion, and listening to what they tell us, even when it´s inconvenient — especially when it´s inconvenient. It is about ensuring that scientific data is never distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda — and that we make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology,” said Obama in a speech during the signing of the EO in March 2009.

“By doing this, we will ensure America´s continued global leadership in scientific discoveries and technological breakthroughs. That is essential not only for our economic prosperity, but for the progress of all humanity.”

In the last few years, stem cells have proved invaluable to researchers. Stem cells have the ability to develop into different types of cells in the body. In particular, they act like an internal repair system in many tissues by dividing and replenishing needed cells. During stem cell division, the cell can remain as a stem cell or change into another cell with a more specific function (for example, a brain cell, red blood cell or muscle cell). Stem cells are different from other cells in that they are unspecialized cells that can become renewed through cell division and, during specific experimental or psychological conditions, they can be made to develop into organ or tissue-specific cells to replace or fix up damaged tissue.

Stem cells can also be helpful in terms of its development as a blastocyst. For one, a three- to five-day-old embryo known as a blastocyst can develop the entire body of an organism. Both specialized cell types and organs are included in this organism, such as eggs, heart, lung, skin, sperm and other tissues. With these generative properties, stem cells have the potential to help treat diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. In addition to their therapeutic uses, stem cells can also help scientists develop better disease screening mechanisms, new drugs or helping to develop model systems to observe normal growth.

To learn more about stem cells, log go to the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) and Stem Cell Research News.