Embryonic stem cells: don't let litigation put research off limits

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Judge Royce Lamberth's order to stop US federally funded research on human embryonic stem cells sets a troubling precedent for intrusion into science in the name of law (Nature 467, 7; 2010 and Nature 467, 12; 2010). To make certain areas of research off limits is akin to our earlier obsession with Earth's central position in the Universe and its anthropocentric implications.

Science is about free competition of ideas; a good idea should not be suppressed. By resorting to litigation, the plaintiff researchers, James Sherley and Theresa Deisher, have betrayed the scientific principles they upheld when they received their PhDs.

We need a more complete understanding of the unicellular state of a fertilized egg before we can decipher human biology and cure disease. This common operating principle, from the unifying point of a single cell, is key to unforeseen discoveries with tremendous potential benefit.

A nation that aspires for equal protection under law and imposes no law regarding religion should not allow science to be stopped by ideologically driven litigation.

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  1. Department of Physiology and Biophysics, State University of New York at Buffalo, 124 Sherman Hall, Buffalo, New York 14214, USA

    • Jian Feng

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