Ban Lifted for Federal Stem-Cell Funding

In a landmark decision that overturns an earlier court ruling, a U.S. appeals court ruled Friday that the Obama administration can continue using federal tax dollars to fund human embryonic stem cell research.

Stem cell research focuses on the possibility that the injection of stem cells, which are the youngest cells in our bodies, may be able to replace diseased areas in the brain, heart and other organs, thus reversing many disease processes.

"Those are the only cells that can make the cells that are lost in those diseases," said director of Cedars-Sinai Regenerative Medicine Institute, Dr. Clive Svendsen.   
"Freeing up the embryonic stem cells through the lifting of this injunction will allow us to use federal support and money, and move clinical trials must faster to patients. So this is why it's an important day," Svendsen said.

Currently, most stem cell treatment uses stem cells taken from bone marrows, human organs or umbilical cord blood. Many scientists believe embryonic stem cells might have more potential for the treatment of various diseases because they are younger and less developed than cord, organ or bone marrow cells. 

Embryonic stem cells are often obtained from embryos created during fertility procedures. Proponents of embryonic stem cell use say that these embryos would otherwise be discarded. Opponents say the use of such embryos destroys human life.

While the debate raged, the initial decision to halt funding of embryonic stem cell research kept scientists from studying whether or not the embryonic cells really were preferable. The appeals court decision made Friday is being hailed as a victory by proponents of stem cell research.

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