|In August a US district court judge ordered a temporary halt to federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, saying it involved the destruction of human embryos [Gallo/Getty]
A US appeals court has granted a request to temporarily lift a judge's ban on federal funding of research involving human embryonic stem cells.
The three-judge panel of the appeals court said in a brief order that it put on hold the judge's ban to give it sufficient opportunity to consider the merits of the US administration's emergency request for a stay.
"Upon consideration of the emergency motion for stay pending appeal ... it is ordered that the district court's August 23, 2010 order be stayed pending further order of the court," the Washington DC federal appeals court said on Thursday.
The appeals court ordered that briefs be filed by September 20 in the case. It then will decide whether the temporary stay should be extended or ended.
In August, Royce Lamberth, a US district court judge, ruled that the research violated US law because it involved destroying human embryos.
His order was a setback for Barack Obama, the US president, who had tried to expand research in the hope that it would lead to new cures for diseases.
The administration said in its emergency request to the appeals court that Lamberth's ruling was at odds with the intent of Congress when it wrote the law limiting federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research and that it would undercut ongoing medical research.
In March 2009, Obama reversed the ban on federal funding for research on embryonic stem cells, a move praised by many who believe the field has huge potential for treating serious diseases, including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and diabetes.
The reversal came after Obama's predecessor, George Bush, banned federal funding for research on embryonic stem cells, which is opposed by religious conservatives on the basis that life begins at conception and the research involves the disposal of embryos.
If Lamberth's ruling is upheld, only private money will be allowed to fund stem cell research. It could take several weeks for an appeals court to schedule a hearing, and then several months before it makes its decision.
Both sides can then appeal the case to the US supreme court.