A federal district judge made a surprising ruling yesterday, blocking federal funding for stem cell research, overturning policies established by the Obama administration in 2009.
Under President Bush, federal dollars could be used to fund research on a few existing stem cell lines, but couldn’t be used to develop or study new lines. The Obama administration opened government funding for research on new lines, until Chief Judge Royce Lamberth’s controversial ruling yesterday.
Andres Trevino was devastated when he heard about Lamberth’s injunction. Trevino, a Mexico City native, first came to America in 1999 to seek treatment for his son, Andy, who was sick with a rare and often fatal genetic mutation called NEMO. Thanks to Children’s doctors and medical knowledge and procedures attributed to stem cell research, Andy’s life was saved. (See a video, below, of Andres talking about yesterday’s injunction.)
Trevino and his wife were so grateful that they donated embryos with NEMO mutation to Children’s to create stem cell lines that could be used to study the disease. But under Lamberth’s injunction, even with the Trevinos’ blessing, federal dollars cannot be used in any capacity to further research using their donated stem cell line. According to Lamberth, current policies on federal funding for stem cell research violate a 1996 law preventing federal money from being used to finance research in which an embryo is destroyed.
The ruling is under review by many in the legal and scientific communities—if and how long it will stand remains uncertain—but for the time being stem cell research has been set back even beyond the limitations created by the Bush administration.
“This ruling means an immediate disruption of dozens of labs doing this work since the Obama administration made its order,” George Daley, MD, PhD, director of Children’s Hospital Boston’s Stem Cell Transplantation Program said to the New York Times. “Our lab will have to return to the old mode of keeping human embryonic stem cell research separate from everything else, which means slower progress.”