KCUR News
10:03 am
Wed September 1, 2010

Stem Cell Ruling Puts Research Projects in Flux

Kansas City, MO – After a U.S. court issued an injunction last week on federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research, a handful of research projects in Kansas and Missouri are in flux.

The Obama administration is appealing the decision, but for now, it means more than $50 million in future funding for projects involving human embryonic stem cells has been frozen.

Professor Michael Roberts, from the University of Missouri in Columbia, studies such cells to better understand pregnancy conditions like preeclampsia. He says he's not pleased with the ruling.

"It's a blow," says Roberts. "It means that a lot of things we were planning to do can't be done. I have some funds laid aside, so I can keep people going for a while, but it's a worrying time."

Roberts says he's also slated to get another grant this fall for nearly $2 million. That's now on hold, too.

Across state line, Professor Ken Peterson at KU Medical Center heads one of - if not the only - affected projects in the Kansas City region (and in Kansas altogether).

"When the injunction came up, we were all a little bit shocked," says Peterson.

Peterson says he and other colleagues weren't aware of the legal challenge to such research until last week's court decision - a judge ruled that a 1996 law prohibiting federal funds for research on human embryos supersedes any subsequent executive orders allowing research on certain human embryonic stem cell lines.

Peterson says he's decided to put his project aside for now, pending the outcome of the ruling. He says the project is just a minor part of his overall study of blood cells.

Many people have moral concerns with human embryonic stem cell research because the creation of such cells involves the destruction of human embryos. Most of the ones used for research come from eggs left over from in-vitro fertilization. The cells have the ability to develop into any type of tissue in the body, and many scientists believe the research holds a lot of promise in developing future medical treatments.

9/9/10 Update: Earlier this week, the judge rejected the administration's appeal. On Thursday, an appeals court then temporarily lifted the ban on funding, while a full appeal of the case is processed.

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