Rice University Expert Weighs In On Stem Cell Ruling

A local expert on stem cell policy says local research could be set back, after the ruling by a federal judge that temporarily blocks the Obama administration's policy to pay for new lines of 'embryonic' stem cell research. The judge concluded the plaintiffs 'may' be able to successfully argue that new government guidelines violate a law that prohibits the use of federal funds for research in which human embryos are destroyed. David Pitman has more.

Back in December, President Obama signed an executive order lifting the Bush administration's moratorium on funding new lines of embryonic stem cells.  Kirsten Matthews is a fellow in Science and Technology Policy at Rice University's Baker Institute.  She says the ruling to halt funding affects not only the dozens of new embryonic stem cell lines recently created..

"It also impacts the research they did before using what Bush approved.  So those lines did go through re-approval process, and this is staying those, as well. So there was some research going on previous to the Obama administration, and this, in theory, halts that."

The plaintiffs are two researchers who work with 'adult' stem cells.  They contend more federal funding for embryonic stem cell research could mean less money for research that they say holds just as much promise to cure chronic diseases and injuries.  But Matthews says the adult cells are too limited.

"When you find one from the brain, it really just wants to be cells that are in the brain.  So if you do diabetes research, it's just not going to be applicable.  They're not going to turn into the particular cell they're looking for that produces insulin."

Matthews says if there were an actual change to the laws regarding the funding of embryonic stem cell research, and not just an executive order, lawsuits like this one would have no merit.

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David Pitman

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