European Court Ruling on Embryonic Stem Cells: Ripple Effects

California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, 210 King Street, San Francisco, CA 94107, USA.
Cell stem cell (Impact Factor: 22.27). 12/2011; 9(6):499-500. DOI: 10.1016/j.stem.2011.11.001
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    ABSTRACT: In 2011, courts in both the United States and European Union handed down decisions related to human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research. In both cases, the definition of research was challenged - but the two courts reached different opinions. In the US case, Sherley v. Sebelius, research was defined as a specific project. The US District Court of Appeals did not link research utilizing existing hESC lines to the act of destroying a human embryo in order to create the line, which is not eligible for federal funding. In contrast, the Court of Justice of the European Union in the Brüstle v. Greenpeace case determined inventions related to hESCs were unpatentable since they resulted from research that involved the destruction of human embryos. In this article, we will compare and contrast these two court cases, the politics related to the rulings, and their impacts. We find that these cases significantly impacted current research and have the potential to negatively impact future stem cell research and development. However, the long-term effects of the cases remain to be seen, and there is a chance that these cases could actually strengthen this area of science. Ultimately, we feel that stem cell polices must be straightforward and supported by the public to prevent courts and judges from making decisions on science, which are disruptive to the progression of research.
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