Embryonic Stem-Cell Opponents Urge Federal Appeals Court to Bar Funding

Embryonic stem-cell research is illegal and funding for it should be barred, a group of scientists who oppose the studies told the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington.

The opponents, researchers who work with adult stem cells, are “suffering irreparable harm from the illegal competition” and permanent loss of federal funds, according to a brief they filed today. The appeals court hasn’t scheduled arguments on the dispute.

The appeals court last month put on hold a lower-court ruling that cut off funding for embryonic stem-cell research after the government argued that it would harm researchers, taxpayers and scientific progress. The appellate court said the funding could continue during the appeal.

Lifting the ban allows the government to temporarily continue to funnel tens of millions of dollars to scientists seeking cures for diseases such as Parkinson’s, spinal cord injuries, and genetic conditions. Embryonic stem cells can grow into any kind of tissue. Adult stem cells, found in mature tissue, are more limited in their ability to differentiate into other cell types.

In today’s filing, the opponents cited the still-in-force 1996 Dickey-Wicker Amendment, saying that Congress prohibited funding any research in which a human embryo was destroyed. By implication, that included all embryonic stem-cell research, lawyers argued.

The federal government is scheduled to file a reply next week. In March 2009, President Barack Obama reversed an executive order of former President George W. Bush, allowing research on cells derived from embryos that would otherwise be disposed of after in-vitro fertilization procedures.

The case is Sherley v. Sebelius, 10-5287, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (Washington).

To contact the reporter on this story: William McQuillen in Washington at bmcquillen@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: David Rovella at drovella@bloomberg.net.

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