HHS halts federal research using human fetal tissue

By Danielle Haynes
The decision means the National Institutes of Health can no longer conduct research with fetal tissue. Photo courtesy NIH
The decision means the National Institutes of Health can no longer conduct research with fetal tissue. Photo courtesy NIH

June 5 (UPI) -- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday that federal sciences will no longer be allowed to use human fetal tissue to carry out research, a move anti-abortion organizations hailed as a victory.

The Trump administration said it let a contract expire with the University of California, San Francisco, which does research using human fetal tissue, and ended such research at the National Institutes of Health.


In September 2018, the HHS ended a contact between the Food and Drug Administration and Advanced Bioscience Resources Inc., which provided tissue from elective abortions to the federal government.

"Promoting the dignity of human life from conception to natural death is one of the very top priorities of President [Donald] Trump's administration," the announcement from the HHS said.

The department said it made the decision after a review of all research using human fetal tissue to make sure it adhered to regulations and there was proper oversight in light of "regulatory, moral and ethical considerations involved."

The Trump administration said outside research funded by NIH grants would not be affected during their current approved project period.


The Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion activist group, welcomed the HHS' decision.

"Today's move demonstrates NIH's investment in scientifically proven methods for research: adult stem cells, [induced pluripotent stem] cells, organdies, humanized mice constructed using postnatally sourced cells and improved non-human cell lines, just to name a few," said Dr. David Prentice, vice president of the SBA's research arm, the Charlotte Lozier Institute.

"The key is that our government will now invest in effective research methods that do not rely on the destruction of human life."

NIH Director Francis Collins said in December "there is strong evidence that scientific benefits come from fetal tissue research, [which] can be done with [an] ethical framework."

The International Society for Stem Cell Research, a professional organization of stem cell researchers, said it opposes the HHS policy announcement. President Doug Melton said the United States's regulatory framework for overseeing fetal tissue research was "carefully developed" with input from ethicists, scientists and members of the public.

"Research using fetal tissue has saved millions of lives through the development of vaccines for diseases that once ravaged communities across the world. Polio is now almost eradicated, and rubella, measles, chickenpox, and rabies are all preventable diseases because of fetal tissue research," he said.


"With these new arbitrary restrictions on research, the United States is ceding its role as the global leader in the development of cellular therapies and regenerative medicine. Americans will now wait for life-saving therapies to be developed in Europe, Asia, and other parts of the world."

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