The challenge to President Obama's 2009 executive order expanding the research was brought in August 2009 by James Sherley and Theresa Deisher, two researchers who work with adult stem cells. Sherley works at the Boston Biomedical Research Institute. Deisher is a cellular physiologist.
The researchers opposed the use of federal funding for the development of embryonic stem cell, or ESC, research saying such research was illegal under federal law -- the "Dickey-Wicker Amendment," which clearly provided "that no federal funds shall be used for 'research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed, discarded, or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death greater than that allowed for research on fetuses in utero ... .'"
A federal judge in Washington agreed, issuing an injunction against the expansion, but the federal appeals court in the capital reversed.
"On appeal, we determined that [the National Institutes of Health] had reasonably interpreted the Dickey-Wicker Amendment [in the expanded research] and vacated the preliminary injunction entered by the district court," the appeals court opinion said. " ... At the time of the adoption of the first Dickey-Wicker rider, scientists had not yet isolated embryonic stem cells and the original enactment was apparently directed at another type of research performed on human embryos in the field of in vitro fertilization."
In 2001, President George W. Bush limited federally funded research to ESCs already in existence. But in 2009, President Obama issued an executive order saying NIH "may support and conduct responsible, scientifically worthy human stem cell research, including human embryonic stem cell research, to the extent
permitted by law."
"NIH may not simply disregard an executive order," the appeals court said last August.
The Supreme Court rejected the case Monday in a one-line order without comment.