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Court won't halt stem cell research funds

WASHINGTON -- Opponents of taxpayer-funded embryonic stem cell research lost a key round Friday in a federal appeals court ruling that gives support to the Obama administration's expansion of the promising but disputed approach to finding disease cures.

In a 2-1 decision, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington ruled that opponents are not likely to succeed in their lawsuit to stop federal financing of stem cell research and overturned a district judge's order that would have blocked the funding.

The panel reversed an opinion issued last August by U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth, who said the research likely violates the law against federal funding of embryo destruction.

The White House said the ruling was a victory for scientists and patients. "Responsible stem cell research has the potential to treat some of our most devastating diseases and conditions and offers hope to families across the country and around the world," spokesman Nick Papas said.

Researchers hope one day to use stem cells to cure spinal cord injuries, Parkinson's disease and other ailments. Opponents of the research object because the cells were obtained from destroyed human embryos. Though current research is using cells culled long ago, opponents also fear research success would spur new embryo destruction. Proponents say the research cells come mostly from extra embryos discarded anyway by fertility clinics.

A 1996 law prohibits the use of taxpayer dollars in work that harms an embryo, so private money has been used to cull batches of the cells. Those batches can reproduce in lab dishes indefinitely, and the Obama administration issued rules permitting taxpayer dollars to be used in work on them through the National Institutes of Health.-- AP

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