Plaintiffs seeking to prevent the federal government were dealt a legal blow last week. Judge Royce Lamberth of the US District Court for the District of Columbia issued that decision on July 27, 2011, recognizing a higher court’s opinion that overruled his own preliminary injunction placed a year ago (subscription to Nature required):
Last week’s ruling decisively affirms the government’s legal ability to fund research on human embryonic stem cells. It is a significant blow to the plaintiffs in the case — James Sherley, a biological engineer at the Boston Biomedical Research Institute in Massachusetts, and Theresa Deisher, who runs AVM Biotechnology in Seattle, Washington. Both work with adult stem cells, which are isolated from tissues or organs rather than embryos.
The image to the right was created by my artist friend Karen Wehrstein to illustrate the utter futility of Bush’s original stem cell policy. Blastocysts, the material embryonic stem cell lines are made, are little balls of cells smaller than the period at the end of this sentence. They’re produced in IVF clinics, usually on behalf of paying customers hoping to have children. Thousands of blastocysts are disposed of every year, literally thrown in a medical incinerator and taken out with the trash. A few could be saved and diverted for research in the promising field of regenerative medicine. The potential benefits of that research are breathtaking. New eyes for the blind, new organs and tissue for the injured and diseased, new spinal cord links for millions of disabled people. Seems like a fairly easy call to me.