The panel reversed an opinion issued last August by U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth, who said the research likely violates the law against federal funding of embryo destruction.
“We're thrilled with this decision and look forward to allowing federally funded scientists to continue with their work without political constraints,” said Sean Tipton, a spokesman for the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.
Researchers hope one day to use stem cells in ways that cure spinal cord injuries, Parkinson's disease and other ailments. Opponents say the research is a form of abortion because human embryos must be destroyed to obtain the stem cells.
The 1996 law prohibits the use of taxpayer dollars in work that harms an embryo, so private money has been used to cull batches of the cells. Those batches can reproduce in lab dishes indefinitely, and the Obama administration issued rules permitting taxpayer dollars to be used in work on them.
The lawsuit was filed by two scientists who argued that Obama's expansion jeopardized their ability to win government funding for research using adult stem cells—ones that have already matured to create specific types of tissues — because it will mean extra competition.
Lamberth, the chief judge of the U.S. District Court in Washington, issued a preliminary injunction in August to block the research while the case continued.