The Supreme Court speaks on embryonic stem cell research

January 17, 2013

Last week, the United States Supreme Court rejected a request to ban U.S.-funded research on human embryonic stem cells (hESCs). The decision brings an end to a long legal battle that has further cast a shadow on progress in hESC studies for over 3 years.

The decision ends the suit of Sherley v. Sebelius, filed in August of 2009 by two researchers who study adult stem cells who challenged an Executive Order signed by President Barack Obama in the first months of his Presidency. The presidential action created guidelines for the funding of hESC research by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The researchers argued that hESC research violates a law that bans federal funds for research that destroys embryos.

As a longtime member of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research (CAMR) Board of Directors and leadership, the Prevent Cancer Foundation has supported efforts to create strict ethical guidelines governing the funding of embryonic stem cell research for more than a decade. We concur with Nobel Laureates and leaders in medical research that regenerative medicine research is central to lifesaving treatment and cures for a multitude of diseases such as cancer, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and spinal cord injuries. We applauded President Obama, when he issued his guidelines in 2009 expanding the policy regarding embryonic stem cell research and allowed the NIH to use Federal dollars to fund grants under strict ethical guidelines and oversight.

Now that this legal challenge has been dismissed by the high court, we are hopeful that the field will begin to progress further. While there will likely be other challenges in the future, this first court win is a landmark one. Regenerative medicine is moving forward, with the first early stage clinical trials having opened in research on blindness and paralysis. Other trials are on the horizonin both the hESC fields and soon with progress in Induced Pluripotent Stem (ips) cell research.

While the court challenge has been long, the Prevent Cancer Foundation and our advocates have worked tirelessly to ensure that our lawmakers understand the value in medical research and disease prevention. We applaud the ruling and hope that this critical work accelerates medical research for millions of patients.

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