STAT, September 25, 2018
Megan Thielking

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The Trump administration has launched a comprehensive review of all research that involves fetal tissue, reopening an issue that has galvanized anti-abortion activists but worried scientists who fear their work could be under threat.

Fetal tissue has been used for a wide range of research in the U.S. since the 1930s, including the development of several vaccines and studies of genetic diseases. The tissue is obtained through elective abortions, and there are strict rules around how it can be procured and used.

In a statement released late Monday, however, the Department of Health and Human Services said it would review whether current oversight of fetal tissue is adequate “in light of the serious regulatory, moral, and ethical considerations involved.” The agency also said it would terminate a contract with Advanced Bioscience Resources, a California-based nonprofit that supplies fetal tissue for scientific research, because of concerns that the contract did not include “appropriate protections” or meet “procurement requirements.”

The announcement follows the release of a letter sent earlier this month by 45 anti-abortion leaders to HHS Secretary Alex Azar, expressing outrage about the Food and Drug Administration’s contract and urging him to end government funding for fetal tissue research. In 2017, the National Institutes of Health spent roughly $98 million on the research. [...]

abortion bioethics human tissue regulation research research funding stem cells