The decision by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit confirms a previous ruling by a lower court, which threw out a lawsuit accusing the National Institutes of Health (NIH) of violating a 1996 law prohibiting taxpayer funding of research that destroys human embryos.
NIH funding of human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research hinges on ambiguity in the 1996 Dickey-Wicker law, which "permits federal funding of research projects that utilize already-derived ESCs—which are not themselves embryos—because no ‘human embryo or embryos are destroyed’ in such projects,” Chief Judge David B. Sentelle said in today's ruling.
The lawsuit was brought by two adult stem cell researchers, whose lawyers said today that their clients are considering taking the issue to the US Supreme Court. Although the Supreme Court accepts only about 1 percent of cases, experts say the fact that the three judges involved in this decision ruled in favor of the NIH for different reasons means the legal wrangling might not be over yet.
“NIH will continue to move forward, conducting and funding research in this very promising area of science," NIH Director Francis Collins said in a statement after the decision. "The ruling affirms our commitment to the patients afflicted by diseases that may one day be treatable using the results of this research.”