The use of tissue from aborted foetuses has become the latest bioethics controversy under the Trump Administration.
The Department of Health and Human Services has asked scientists working in government facilities to stop procuring human foetal tissue for their research, although they can continue using tissue that they already have.
Instead, the Administration is encouraging scientists to investigate other avenues, such as pluripotent stem cells. It plans to offer US$20 million in funding over the next two years “to develop and/or further refine human tissue models that closely mimic and can be used to faithfully model human embryonic development or other aspects of human biology, for example, the human immune system, that do not rely on the use of human fetal tissue obtained from elective abortions.”
The change of policy has upset many scientists.
“It’s not just HIV research, but cancer research and Alzheimer’s research,” Paula Cannon, a microbiologist at the University of Southern California, told the Washington Post. “There are so many types of research that benefit from fetal tissue. Everybody who has federal funding is now worried.”
And a coalition of coalition of research organizations, universities and patient advocates warned in an open letter: “Any new restriction on this critical work would obstruct research that is necessary for the development of new treatments for a wide range of serious diseases,”
The Administration’s move has supporters. David Prentice, vice president and research director of the Charlotte Lozier Institute, claims that the same research can be done with reprogrammed stem cells. “This is older science, using fetal tissue,” he told the Washington Post. “It’s a holdover from the way things have been done in the past, and there are multiple alternatives that are better science, more modern and can give us better answers.”
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