Created by on 09/03/2010


On Monday, August 23rd, Federal District Court for the District of Columbia Judge Royce Lamberth issued a preliminary injunction barring the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)Guidelines for Human Stem Cell Research from taking effect, thereby prohibiting the use of federal funds for human embryonic stem cell research (hESC). In response to the decision, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) ordered an immediate shutdown of hESC research conducted in its intramural program. While extramural research for which funds have already been awarded is currently allowed to proceed, NIH will not review or award any new grants, competing renewals, or continuations involving hESCs. Earlier this week, HHS and NIH appealed the judge’s decision, filed an emergency motion to stay the order pending the appeal, and requested that the court rule on the motion to stay by Tuesday, September 7th.

In his decision, Judge Lamberth ruled that the plaintiffs (two adult stem cell researchers) were likely to win their suit contending that hESC research violated the Dickey-Wicker amendment, a provision that has been attached to the annual Labor-HHS appropriations bill every year since 1996. The amendment bars funding for “1) the creation of a human embryo or embryos for research purposes; or 2) research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed, discarded, or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death greater than that allowed for research on fetuses in utero.”

In 1999, HHS determined that the Dickey-Wicker amendment, while prohibiting the derivation of stem cells from embryos, is not applicable to hESC research because such research does not result in the destruction of an embryo. In contrast, Judge Lamberth, in granting the injunction, concluded that “Derivation of ESC from an embryo is an integral step in conducting ESC research…If one step or ‘piece of research’ of an ESC research project results in the destruction of an embryo, the entire project is precluded from receiving federal funding.”

FASEB immediately issued a statement condemning the ruling. Federation President William T. Talman, M.D. remarked that “Prohibiting the use of federal funds for human embryonic stem cell research is a major set-back to research that holds promise for future cures. The ruling, if allowed to stand, unnecessarily delays development of new medical treatments and diminishes the hopes of millions of patients suffering from serious illnesses.”