When U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth issued an injunction last August cutting off federal funding for research with human embryonic stem cells, he wrote that he did so because plaintiffs in an unresolved lawsuit who studied adult stem cells would "suffer irreparable injury in the absence of the injunction," while human embryonic stem cell researchers' work would remain unaffected.
A November 2010 survey of 370 scientists conducted by Aaron D. Levine of the School of Public Policy and Institute of Bioengineering and Bioscience at Georgia Tech suggests that the judge got the consequences all wrong.
The temporary funding ban disrupted the scientists' work directly, researchers who responded to the survey reported. What's more, ongoing uncertainty about funding for human embryonic stem cell research negatively affected scientists working with non-human and non-embryonic stem cell types as well as the controversial cell lines at the center of the controversy.
Of the researchers Levine surveyed, 50 said they were delaying plans to start hESC research. Thirty-four said they were shifting future research plans away from hESC cells. Forty-four said that policy uncertainty was impeding ongoing research. Some said they'd been affected negatively by the increased cost and administrative burden of keeping federally and non-federally funded research separated in their labs. Uncertainty made some researchers put off hiring postdoctoral staff and other lab staff.