US & Canada

Court delays ban on federal funds for US stem cell work

Man doing stem cell research
Image caption Opponents say some areas of stem cell work are wrong

An appeals court in the United States on Thursday suspended a ban imposed last month on federally-funded research involving embryonic stem cells.

The court in Washington placed a temporary stay on an earlier decision by US District Judge Royce Lamberth.

Judge Lamberth had ruled that the research violated US law because it involved destroying human embryos.

President Obama lifted a ban on federal funding for stem cell research in March.

Critics say the ban, which was kept in place by Mr Obama's predecessor, George W Bush, impeded the fight to find treatments for diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and diabetes.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) issued a statement on Friday saying it was resuming its stem cell research program, which includes evaluating applications from external scientists wishing to receive public funding for their research.

"We are pleased with the court's interim ruling, which will allow promising stem cell research to continue," the statement said.

However, with legal action ongoing, the extent to which NIH will be able to pursue and fund projects remains unclear.

The legal action, which was also backed by Christian groups including the Alliance Defense Fund, is against the NIH.

Judge Lamberth's earlier decision had prompted a temporary injunction blocking plans by the Obama administration to increase funding for human embryonic stem cell research.

The appeals court said on Thursday that the purpose of its administrative stay was to give the judges opportunity to consider the merits of a Justice Department motion seeking to suspend Judge Lamberth's ruling.

Thursday's move "should not be construed in any way as a ruling on the merits" of the motion, the appeals judges said.

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