Wednesday was a difficult day for The American Independent News Network, which is the larger entity that operates The Iowa Independent. Our chief executive and founder announced two of our sister sites would close and their content would be moved to The American Independent.
U of I evaluating impact of injunction on stem cell research funding
Officials at the University of Iowa are unwilling to comment about the judicial hold that has been placed on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research until they better understand the full impact of the injunction. The school is involved in stem cell research through the Carver College of Medicine Stem Cell Group.
In March 2009, President Barack Obama lifted the Bush administration’s eight-year ban on federal funding for the research, but on Monday U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth issued a temporary injunction on the expansion. The judge issued a 15-page decision case, which was initially brought by a former MIT scientist and others who hold values-based objections to stem cell research, and decided that regulations to expand federal funding for the research violated a law that prohibits destruction of embryos for research purposes.
The judge also ruled that such an expansion would harm less controversial adult stem cell researchers, such as the MIT scientist who brought the case, who would be forced to compete for federal funding.
U of I spokesman Stephen Pradarelli said in an e-mail to The Iowa Independent that staff is reviewing Lamberth’s decision to determine what impact, if any, it may have on the school and its research.
“Until we complete that process, we prefer to withhold comment,” Pradarelli said.
In 2007, Gov. Chet Culver signed legislation that eased the limits on types of stem-cell research in Iowa. The legislation allowed medical researchers to create embryonic stem cells through cloning — to insert genetic material from a patient’s cell into an unfertilized egg from another person, which results in an embryo that is a genetic match to the patient. The previous ban on such research, Culver said at the time, had placed Iowa at a disadvantage with other states where universities were rapidly adopting and enhancing existing stem cell research.
It remains unclear, however, if embryonic stem cells created under Iowa’s eased standards will be subject to the judicial injunction issued Monday.
Uncertainly ruled the day throughout the nation on Monday and Tuesday, as labs engaging in stem cell research attempted to ferret out exactly how the injunction would impact their programs, and which specific streams of research and federal funding were affected.
“I have to tell everyone in my lab that when they feed their cells tomorrow morning, they better use media that has not been funded by the federal government,” Dr. George Q. Daley, director of the stem cell transplantation program at Children’s Hospital Boston, told the New York Times. “This ruling means an immediate disruption of dozens of labs doing this work since the Obama administration made its order.”
Initially, Lamberth dismissed the case, citing that the plaintiffs — scientists, conservative interest groups and embryos — were not directly or materially impacted by the change of rules. But the Court of Appeals reversed the decision, kicking the case back to U.S. District Court on grounds that the the scientists were impacted due competition for federal dollars. When the case re-entered the courtroom, all plaintiffs except for the scientists were dropped.
The Obama administration policy, according to Lamberth, was a clear violation of the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, which is brought before Congress annually to ban federal funding of “research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed, discarded or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death.”
U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, has been a long-time supporter of stem cell research and serves as chairman of the appropriations subcommittee that funds medical research. He also expressed shock and resolve on Monday regarding the court injunction.
“This ruling should be appealed and I fully believe that it will be overturned. Embryonic stem cell research offers hope to millions of Americans who are suffering from debilitating and life-threatening diseases, and it must be allowed to proceed,” Harkin said in a statement released by his office.
Since the Obama administration allowed funding of research into embryonic stem cell lines that were previously allowed under Bush administration rules or lines created by embryos provided by unpaid donors following fertilization procedures, Lamberth held that use of the embryos violated Dickey-Wicker. Administration officials believed they were within the guidelines of the law because they would only fund research once embryonic stem cells were created, and not fund the destruction of embryos required to create the lines.