Last August, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth issued an injunction that cut off federal funds for research with human embryonic stem cells. The reason he gave was the following: plaintiffs involved in an unresolved lawsuit who studied adult stem cells would “suffer irreparable injury in the absence of an injunction” while at the same time the work of embryonic stem cell researchers would be unaffected.
A November 2010 survey on 370 students by Aaron D. Levine of the School of Public Policy and Institute of Bioengineering and Bioscience at Georgia Tech indicates that the judge was wrong. The results were published in the scientific journal Cell Stem Cell on February 3.
Regarding Lamberth’s decision, Eryn Brown of the Los Angeles Times wrote, “The temporary funding ban disrupted the scientists’ work directly, researchers who responded to the survey reported. What’s more, ongoing uncertainty about finding for human embryonic stem cell research negatively affected scientists working with non-human and non-embryonic stem cell types as well as the controversial cell lines at the center of the controversy.”
In Levine’s survey, 50 of the researchers said they were delaying plans before beginning hESC (human embryonic stem cell) research while 34 of them said they were going in another direction of the hESC research. 44 reported that uncertainties about the stem cell policy were hindering research. Others said they had suffered a negative impact in their labs by the rising costs and bureaucracy of keeping the federally funded research separated from the non-federally funded research. Some researchers said that all this uncertainty made them postpone any hiring of new lab staff.
Levine wrote, “Frequent policy changes have made the years since these cells were first derived something of a roller coaster.”
The Clinton Administration allowed federal funding of cell research, but not federal funding for the creation of new cell lines. George Bush permitted funding to work on a small quantity of lines and vetoed the bills when Congress tried to overturn the restrictions a total of two times.