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Federal Judge Sides With Obama Administration on Embryonic Stem Cell Research

WASHINGTON (The Blaze/AP) -- A lawsuit that had threatened to end the Obama administration's funding of embryonic stem cell research was dismissed Wednesday. This will allowing the U.S. to continue supporting a search for cures to deadly diseases over protests that the work relies on destroyed human embryos.

The lawsuit claimed that research funded by the National Institutes of Health violated the 1996 Dickey-Wicker law that prohibits taxpayer financing for work that harms an embryo. But the administration policy allows research on embryos that were culled long ago through private funding.

U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth, chief of the federal court in Washington, last year said the lawsuit was likely to succeed and ordered a stop to the research while the case continued. But under swift protest from the Obama administration, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals here quickly overturned Lamberth's injunction and said the case was likely to fail.

Lamberth said in his opinion Wednesday that he is bound by the higher court's analysis and ruled in favor of the administration's motion to dismiss the case. Bloomberg has more:

“The court’s determination that it is bound by the D.C. Circuit’s conclusion that ‘research’ in the Dickey-Wicker Amendment is ambiguous as a matter of law is buttressed by the fact that plaintiffs haven’t offered any new information or reasoning that was unavailable to the D.C. Circuit,” Lamberth wrote in today’s ruling.

The doctors who sued asked the judge last month to block the funding again, arguing that the appeals court considered only one of their arguments.

Researchers hope one day to use embryonic stem cells in ways that cure spinal cord injuries, Parkinson's disease and other ailments. Opponents of the research object because the cells were obtained from destroyed human embryos. Though current research is using cells culled long ago, opponents also fear research success would spur destruction of new embryos. Proponents say the research cells come mostly from extra embryos discarded anyway by fertility clinics.

President George W. Bush also permitted stem cell research, but limited the availability of taxpayer funds to embryonic stem cell lines that were already in existence and "where the life and death decision has already been made." Obama's order removed that limitation, allowing projects that involve stem cells from already-destroyed embryos or embryos to be destroyed in the future. To qualify, parents who donate the original embryo must be told of other options, such as donating to another infertile woman.

The Obama administration's rules expanded the number of stem cell lines created with private money that federally funded scientists could research, up from the 21 that Bush had allowed, to around 100 so far.

The lawsuit was filed in 2009 by two scientists -- Dr. James Sherley, a biological engineer at Boston Biomedical Research Institute, and Theresa Deisher, of Washington-based AVM Biotechnology -- who argued that Obama's expansion jeopardized their ability to win government funding for research using adult stem cells - ones that have already matured to create specific types of tissues - because it will mean extra competition.

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