“This is a victory for patients all across America,” she said in a statement. “This is also great news for the scientific community, so that they may continue to apply for grants and know their research will be able to move forward.”
“The opinion is significant because the contrary result – an order freezing use of federal funds on research on existing stem cell lines – could have jeopardized much of the incredibly important research underway,” said Abbe Gluck, a professor at Columbia Law School.
At issue was whether the Obama administration and the National Institutes of Health were complying with the 1996 congressional ban.
Each administration dating to President Clinton has grappled with the ethical, legal, and public policy challenges of human embryonic stem cell research, as has Congress.
At the center of the debate over government funding of embryonic stem cell science is the issue of the potential destruction of human embryos. The process of developing new cells for research can lead to the destruction of the embryo. Advocates of the research, however, say the stem cells are harvested from embryos that are created through in vitro fertilization and are slated for destruction after not being implanted. Researchers say embryonic stem cells can also be harvested from placental cord blood.
There are no legal restrictions banning the destruction of embryos in privately-funded stem cell research. But researchers complain that there are few sources of private funding.