The United States cannot afford to allow ongoing legal ambiguities to compromise the vast potential of stem-cell research, yet the struggle over federal funding for research involving human embryonic stem cells may well be waged for years to come, write Harvard Law School Assistant Professor I. Glenn Cohen and Dr. Eli Y. Adashi in an article published by the New England Journal of Medicine on May 18.

The article, “Human Embryonic Stem-Cell Research under Siege — Battle Won but Not the War,” analyzes recent federal court decisions and appeals on federal funding for research at the National Institutes of Health involving human embryonic stem cells, or ESCs.

“We believe that the debate over human ESC research funding is far from over,” Cohen and Adashi write. “Going forward, the plaintiffs could pursue any of several legal pathways, should they so choose. … We cannot afford to allow ongoing legal ambiguities to compromise this line of scientific pursuit. Quite the contrary, now is the time to pick up the pace with an eye toward realizing the hoped-for translational benefits. With statutory relief deemed unlikely to be provided before the 2012 elections, it appears all but inevitable that the matter of funding of human ESC research will have to be settled in a court of law.”

The full article is available on the New England Journal of Medicine website.

Cohen is an Assistant Professor of Law and co-director of the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School. Adashi is a Professor of Medical Science at Brown University.