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Supreme Court Dismisses Stem Cell Appeal

On Monday, January 7, the U.S. Supreme Court turned down further review of a lingering dispute involving stem cell research. Without additional comment, the Supreme Court denied certiorari in Sherley, James, et al., v. Sebelius, Sec. of H & HS, et al., allowing the latest opinion of the D.C. Circuit on the merits of the case to stand and ending the funding challenge of stem cell researchers James Sherley of the Boston Biomedical Research Institute and Theresa Deisher of Sound Choice Pharmaceutical Institute. The researchers, who work exclusively with adult stem cells, sued to end any government funded research on embryonic stem cells.

The lawsuit challenged a March, 2009 Executive Order by President Obama reinstituting funding for embryonic stem cell research. The Sherley, et al. lawsuit was based on the claim that President Obama’s order on funding violated the 1996 Dickey Wicker Amendment that prohibits taxpayer funding of scientific “research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed, discarded, or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death…”

Bill Mears, CNN Supreme Court Producer, summarizes the current thinking of many biomedical researchers:

In 2001, when President George Bush first approved federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research, 64 existing stem cell lines that were created before August 9, 2001, qualified for federal funding.  But of those, only 21 were usable by scientists.  Bush later rescinded the funding.

Under the Obama administration’s rules, at least 75 stem cell lines qualify for federal funding, according to the NIH. . .  NIH has invested more than $500 million in human embryonic stem cell research.  Scientists conducting such research say continued federal funding is necessary, because they would have greater flexibility to work collaboratively within labs, across labs and around the world on the latest treatments and breakthroughs.  Supporters of embryonic stem cell research say their studies have shown promise in treating a range of debilitating conditions, including diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, cancer and spinal cord injuries.