August 24, 2010 / 5:05 PM / 9 years ago

White House mulling "all options" on stem cells

VINEYARD HAVEN, Mass., Aug 24 (Reuters) - The White House is reviewing all options for responding to a court ruling stopping federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research, a spokesman said on Tuesday.

A U.S. district judge issued the injunction on Monday, saying the doctors who challenged the policy would likely succeed because U.S. law blocked all federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.

"We’re exploring all possible avenues to make sure that we can do this critical life-saving research," White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton told a briefing in Massachusetts, where President Barack Obama is on vacation.

"The president said very plainly when he laid out his stem cell policy that this is important, potentially life-saving research that could have an impact on millions of Americans and people all around the world. He thinks that we need to do research. He put forward stringent ethical guidelines and he thinks that his policy is the right one," Burton said.

The Obama administration could appeal the judge’s decision or try to rewrite the guidelines to comply with U.S. law.

When asked about more specific options, Burton said, "We’re reviewing all possibilities."

The suit against the National Institutes of Health had argued that the administration’s policy violated U.S. law and took funds from researchers seeking to work with adult stem cells.

In 2001, then-President George W. Bush said he could only allow federal research money to pay for work done using a few batches of the powerful cells, which can give rise to all the tissues and cells in the human body.

Obama reversed Bush’s stand with an executive order in 2009.

Burton said the injunction also may stop the research allowed by Bush’s policy.

The ruling affects only federally funded research, not private research.

Embryonic stem cells come from days-old embryos and can produce any type of cell in the body. Scientists hope to be able to use them to spinal cord injuries, cancer, diabetes and diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Opponents of human embryonic stem cell research say it is wrong, usually for religious reasons, to damage or destroy a human embryo.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle in Washington; Editing by Maggie Fox and Bill Trott) (For a factbox on embryonic stem cells, click [ID:nN24260546])




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