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Published: Wednesday, 10/6/2010

Research reprieve

A GOOD decision by a federal appeals court will allow crucial studies of embryonic stem cells to continue, while a lawsuit against government funding of the research proceeds.

In August, a federal judge halted the research funding by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) while opponents challenged the legality of the subsidies. The appeals court ruling late last month reversed that order.

The lower-court ruling concluded that the federal funding was illegal because the stem cell research involved the destruction of human embryos. The judge's order forced the NIH to pull 50 grants that were awaiting review and freeze another 22 grants that were up for renewal.

Government lawyers argued that if the ban remained in place while the case moved through the courts, dozens of potentially groundbreaking research projects on deadly diseases would be ruined. Fortunately, the appeals court agreed.

President Obama has made funding of the research a priority. The White House noted that the disputed research is investigating potential cures for spinal cord injuries and Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.

Critics who believe the stem cell research is unethical and illegal will get their day in court. But until the matter is resolved, it's appropriate that the NIH and scientists who rely on federal grants can continue to work in the public interest.

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