White House looks at ways round stem cell ruling
The White House said Tuesday it was examining a court’s decision to put a temporary block on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research to see how it could keep the “life-saving” work going.
A US court on Monday ordered a halt to federal funding of the research, which President Barack Obama had authorized, saying it involved the destruction of human embryos.
“The president said very plainly that this is important, life-saving research,” spokesman Bill Burton told reporters. “We’re reviewing all possibilities.”
“We’re reviewing it so we can keep this important, potentially life-saving research moving forward in the most ethical way possible,” he added.
US District Court Judge Royce Lamberth ruled in favor of a coalition, including several Christian organizations, which had sought a temporary injunction on funding of the research ahead of a planned lawsuit.
The coalition argued that Obama’s March 2009 lifting of a ban on federal funding for the work violated 1996 legislation that prohibits government money being used for research in which embryos are discarded or destroyed.
Obama’s decision to reverse the ban on federal funds research on embryonic stem cells was lauded by many researchers who believe the field has huge potential for treating serious diseases including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and diabetes.
Researchers believe that stem cells, so-called because they are the foundation for all human cells, provide two promising avenues for scientists.
First, they can be used for research that cannot be performed inside the body. But scientists believe they can also coax the foundational cells into cardiac, pancreatic or brain cells to replace damaged or infected cells and allow tissue or organs to reconstitute themselves.
There are three types of stem cells currently being examined for their potential medical research value.
Embryonic stem cells, which are extracted from human embryos; adult stem cells, which are taken from the body or from elements discarded after birth, such the umbilical cord; and induced pluripotent stem cells — adult stem cells that have been genetically modified to resemble embryonic stem cells.
In reversing the ban put in place by his predecessor George W. Bush, Obama pointed to the potential breakthroughs the research could yield, and he rejected the “false choice” between sound science and moral values.
But the research is fiercely opposed by religious conservatives, who believe that life begins at conception, because it involves the disposal of embryos.