Stem Cell Rulings Continue

A series of recent court decisions have begun to clarify the legal situation surrounding the future of human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research, following the Aug. 23 ruling that barred the use of federal funds for research involving hESCs.

A motion submitted on Sept. 20 by the University of California (UC) to join the case as an intervener was denied by the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.  Instead, the court allowed the UC to file an amicus brief in support of the defendants.  Interestingly, both the plaintiffs and defendants opposed intervention by the UC, with each side effectively claiming that the UC did not have standing to join the case.

The appeals court also held a hearing Monday to determine whether the temporary stay of the preliminary injunction that it issued on Sept. 9 should remain in place.  After hearing arguments from both sides, the court sided with the government and on Tuesday issued a permanent stay, pending the outcome of the trial.  This ruling means that NIH review and funding of both new and renewing hESC grants can continue, as can intramural hESC research on the NIH campus.

Though the final word on the case has yet to be had, a decision is looming.  Both sides have submitted motions asking for summary judgment, which would allow the judge to rule on the case in the absence of any further hearings.  No date has been given for the ruling on summary judgment, though a decision is expected within the next month.  If these motions are denied, then a trial would be forthcoming.

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