Policy ForumResearch Funding

Politics and Parthenotes

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Science  22 Oct 2010:
Vol. 330, Issue 6003, pp. 453
DOI: 10.1126/science.1196881

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On 23 August 2010, federal judge Royce Lamberth ruled that President Obama's 2009 executive order expanding federal funding of human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research violated a federal law, the Dickey-Wicker Amendment (DWA), which prevents the funding of research that destroys embryos (1). This congressional prohibition defines a human embryo as “any organism not protected as a human subject” that was “derived by fertilization, parthenogenesis, or any other means from one or more human gametes” (2). The situation is changing rapidly, with court decisions pending and the possibility of legislation that may, for example, exempt hESCs from DWA provisions (3). In danger of being overlooked is the wording about parthenogenesis, which threatens a separate, but potentially fruitful, area of research.