The Supreme Court today rejected a request to ban U.S.-funded research on human embryonic stem cells (hESCs). The decision brings to an end a long legal battle that has cast a shadow over hESC studies for over 3 years.
Two scientists who study adult stem cells filed their suit, Sherley v. Sebelius, in August 2009. They argued that new National Institutes of Health (NIH) guidelines lifting restrictions on hESC research violated a law banning federal funds for research that destroys embryos. A year later, the plaintiffs won a preliminary injunction that briefly shut down NIH-funded hESC research until an appeals court stayed the injunction. The appeals court and a trial court later ruled in favor of the government.
In October, the plaintiffs appealed to the Supreme Court. But today, the court "denied certiorari," meaning it rejected their petition.
Amy Comstock Rick, president of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research in Washington, D.C., which supports hESC research, called the decision "a victory for scientists, patients, and the entire biomedical research community. Science can now continue to move forward, knowing the threat to promising research and funding has been eliminated."
*Correction 1:15 p.m., 7 January: A change clarifies that the suit argued against new NIH guidelines that lifted restrictions on hESC research.