Deerfield, IL, Sept. 2, 2010 — Vital progress in stem cell research by hundreds of U.S. laboratories is threatened after last week’s injunction prohibiting federal funding for the study of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs). The president of the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR), Elaine Fuchs, Rockefeller University, U.S., stated that the setbacks for advancing biomedical research on stem cells and translating this knowledge into new and improved treatments for patients are already considerable, and escalate with each day the injunction continues.
Sir Ian Wilmut, MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine, UK, agrees. "Any disruption of this [hESC] research, such as that imposed by the present injunction, will have a chilling effect on research throughout the world."
"To advance the potential of stem cells for regenerative medicine, researchers must be able to study hESCs and uncover their special ability to make every cell of our body, including adult stem cells," said Dr. Fuchs. "Information on hESCs is essential so that we can discover new niches for adult stem cells in more tissues, learn how they differ from hESCs, and begin to understand how to expand the more limited capacity of adult stem cells. Without government funds to support this research, U.S.-based scientists and physicians will be impeded in developing the blueprint for stem cell therapies that will save lives."
As a result of the injunction, the National Institutes of Health (U.S.) has announced that review and issuance of pending grant applications and grant renewals has been suspended until further notice. Grants affected include some long-standing research supported during the Bush administration that involve some of the top physician scientists in the U.S.
Stem cell researchers in the U.S. are now left guessing as to the full impact on their research and in some cases, the future of their laboratories and expertly trained staff. Early-career scientists, who often rely solely on federal research funding and on short-term results to establish longer-term funding, are particularly vulnerable to a cessation in funding of any duration.
The ISSCR is further concerned that the ramifications will extend internationally. ISSCR Vice President Shinya Yamanaka, Kyoto University, Japan and Gladstone Institutes, U.S., notes the potential impact on decisions for legislating hESC research in Japan, "President Obama’s decision to facilitate hESC research had a huge impact on the decision of the Japanese government to permit hESC research. I am afraid that this new injunction may therefore negatively affect the Japanese regulations in this regard, thereby inhibiting the future of both hESC and induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) research.” Dr. Wilmut added, “The U.S. makes an enormous contribution to biomedical research, and U.S.-derived stem cells form the cornerstone of worldwide research efforts."
Research using hESCs has been supported by the U.S. government since 2002 and provides critical insight into human development and disease that is needed to advance our understanding and treatment of a wide range of diseases and conditions. The ISSCR remains committed to supporting all forms of stem cell research, advocating that both embryonic and adult stem cell research move forward in parallel to realize the full promise of regenerative medicine.
The International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) is an independent, nonprofit organization established to promote and foster the exchange and dissemination of information and ideas relating to stem cells, to encourage the general field of research involving stem cells and to promote professional and public education in all areas of stem cell research and application.
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United States District Court for Washington D.C. Preliminary Injunction (Aug. 23, 2010):
NIH notification regarding applications for grants and contracts that involve human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) (Aug. 30, 2010)
Statement from NIH Director Francis Collins (Aug. 26, 2010):http://www.nih.gov/about/director/08262010statement_stemcellinjunction.htm
Justice Department Motion to Stay and Notice of Appeal (Aug. 31, 2010),:
Motion to Stay includes a Declaration of NIH Director Francis Collins detailing the impact on intra- and extra-mural research: “… The preliminary injunction issued in this case will have extraordinary adverse effects not only on the prospects of delivering new therapies to patients suffering from numerous diseases and disorders but also on scientific progress from the wider biomedical research community…”
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