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NIH Halts All Internal Embryonic Stem-Cell Research

The federal agency makes an unprecedented decision in response to last week’s federal injunction.
August 30, 2010

The National Institutes of Health, the nation’s largest biomedical funding agency, halted all ongoing research at the agency that involves human embryonic stem cells. The order comes in response to a federal injunction issued last week blocking use of federal funding for the research. (See my story, New Court Ruling Could Cripple Stem-Cell Research, for more details.)

According to Science Insider:

According to a furious NIH staffer who read the e-mail to ScienceInsider over the telephone, this morning’s message from NIH intramural research chief Michael Gottesman states: “HHS [the Department of Health and Human Services] has determined that the recent preliminary injunction … is applicable to the use of human embryonic stem cells in intramural research projects. In light of this determination, effective today, intramural scientists who use human ES cell lines should initiate procedures to terminate these projects. Procedures that will conserve and protect the research resources should be followed.”

The agency has eight research projects that use hESCs, most if not all of which use lines approved under the Bush Administration, say NIH officials. It also has a unit that characterizes lines added to the NIH registry of approved hESC lines.

The shutdown is the first immediate halt to research since Lamberth issued the preliminary injunction. NIH Director Francis Collins has said that extramural researchers can continue their projects for now and that the injunction will affect only future grant payments. (“Intramural” means researchers in labs on the NIH campus; “extramural” refers to researchers at universities and other outside institutions who receive NIH grants.)But some biomedical research lobbyists worry that that interpretation of the ruling may have been too optimistic, and a shutdown of all ongoing NIH-funded hESC research could be imminent.

The Department of Justice is expected to ask the courts to stay the injunction as soon as today, an NIH source tells ScienceInsider.

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