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Stem cell funding gets reprieve

Experimental stem cell treatments offered in China are luring American patients such as 9-year-old Kara Anderson, whose parents took her around the world to help treat her cerebral palsy.

"Given the potentially devastating blow this court case could give to ethical research, I think the momentum is strong for passing legislation," DeGette said.

Individual researchers facing the loss of millions of dollars of federal grants were relieved.

"It is certainly encouraging that the Appeals Court has acted swiftly to lift the ban even while it considers the government's emergency motion. Needless to say, the district court's ban, if maintained, would be devastating for the research in my laboratory as well as the field in general, and the uncertainty we face currently has already derailed important research projects in my laboratory," said Ali H. Brivanlou, a stem cell researcher at the Rockefeller University in New York. "We look forward to a more permanent resolution coming from either congress or the Appeals Court."

But the decision was condemned by opponents.

"The American people should not be forced to pay for even one more day of experiments that destroy human life, have produced no real-world treatments and violate an existing federal law," said Steven H. Aden, a lawyer at the Alliance Defense Fund, which filed the lawsuit. "The district court's decision simply enforced that law, which prevents Americans from paying another penny for needless research on human embryos made irrelevant by adult stem cell and other research."

Lamberth has indicated he is willing to quickly consider a motion for summary judgment by the plaintiffs. In that case, a fresh government appeal could be expected. Aden said the uncertainty surrounding the ongoing legal battles could make it difficult for the government to resume activity involving the research in question.

"We expect the circuit court to rule expeditiously," Aden said, "and in light of that as a practical matter it may be difficult for NIH to turn the battleship around so to speak and go the other direction, knowing that decision might again be reversed within a matter of several days."

steinr@washpost.com hsus@washpost.com


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