- Associated Press - Thursday, September 9, 2010

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal appeals court on Thursday permitted federal funding of stem cell research to proceed for now, while it considers a judge’s ruling that had temporarily shut off the funds.

The government is asking the appeals court in Washington to strike down a preliminary order by U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth blocking federal funding for some stem cell research.

The three-member appeals panel said it is suspending Judge Lamberth’s ruling for now. The appeals judges said they want more time to deal with issues in the government’s appeal.

Judge Lamberth rejected the administration’s request to let funding continue while it pursues an appeal of his order.

The appeals court said the purpose of its administrative stay was to give the judges sufficient opportunity to consider the merits of the Justice Department’s emergency motion which seeks to suspend Judge Lamberth’s ruling.

Thursday’s move “should not be construed in any way as a ruling on the merits” of the Justice Department’s motion, the appeals judges said in their three-paragraph order.

Twenty-two stem cell projects around the country were scheduled to receive new checks in September, and thus were presumed to be planning to stop work when their money ran out.

Lisa Hughes, president of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research, said her organization is very pleased that the appeals court has taken the step.

“It is crucial that federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research be restored permanently and this stay is a step in that direction,” Hughes said in a statement. “While this issue continues to be argued in the courts, we call on Congress to move swiftly to resolve this issue and secure the future of this important biomedical research.”

The appeals judges in the case are Karen LeCraft Henderson, Janice Rogers Brown, and Thomas B. Griffith. Judge Henderson was appointed by George H.W. Bush and Judge Brown and Judge Griffith were appointed by George W. Bush.

Medical researchers value stem cells because they are master cells that can turn into any tissue of the body. Research eventually could lead to cures for spinal cord injuries, Parkinson’s disease and other ailments.

Associated Press Medical Writer Lauran Neergaard contributed to this report.

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