The fate of stem cell research is in limbo. Last month, a judge issued a ban on federal funding for stem cell research. After an appellate court issued a stay on the ban that allowed funding to continue temporarily, researchers — including many here at the University — are left uncertain about the future of their work. Stem cell research holds too many benefits for the medical community, the University and the state of Michigan to be halted because of political debate. The U.S. Court of Appeals should rule in favor of the Obama administration’s mandate for the federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.

Last month, U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth ruled that federal backing of stem cell research violates federal law because it involved destroying human embryos, according to a Sept. 9 report in The New York Times. Last week, a panel of three U.S. District Court appellate justices granted the Obama administration a temporary lift on a ban on federal funding for stem cell research. The appeals court granted both sides of the case until Sept. 20 to submit arguments, after which it will determine the validity of Lamberth’s decision. According to The New York Times article, the delay should allow Congress time to pass legislation that would make Lamberth’s decision irrelevant.

The benefits of stem cell research are too copious and important to be held up in the courts. Embryonic stem cell research holds the potential to cure numerous debilitating diseases. The scientific community has long sought an expansion of embryonic stem cell research because of its potential benefits in numerous medical applications. Conditions like Parkinson’s disease, cancer and organ failure could be more effectively treated with procedures developed through expansive research involving stem cells.

The state of Michigan has positioned itself to become a leader in stem cell research. In 2008, a proposal on the state ballot legalized stem cell research. If the Court of Appeals rules to not reverse Lamberth’s decision, Michigan loses. The expansion of stem cell research will serve as a catalyst in the state’s underdeveloped science and technology sector, an industry that stands to create long-standing jobs with roots in educational research institutions. Federal funding is needed to help augment those economic benefits.

While the state certainly stands to gain substantially from the expansion of stem cell research, the true beneficiary is the University. As one of the nation’s premier research institutions, the University stands to become a hub for stem cell research. The opportunity to be involved in this cutting-edge research will draw prominent researchers and professors to Michigan’s already-impressive research community. But the research requires a secure line of federal funding to run smoothly. With its renowned medical school and research programs, the University is ready and willing to accept a leading role on the international research stage.

Stem cell research holds the key to Michigan’s growth and future. The economic, medical and institutional benefits speak for themselves. Crucial research should not be halted by this decision, and the Obama administration’s mandate for federal funding should continue.

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