After more than 30 years of researchers using human fetal tissue to investigate causes of disease and the body’s response to medications, the Trump administration banned this type of research on June 5, 2019. In a commentary published November 12 in the journal Stem Cell Reports, Joseph M. McCune of the University of California, San Francisco, and Irving L. Weissman of Stanford University condemn this decision, calling it “misguided” and saying it is “endangering the lives and health of many.”
McCune and Weissman identify several medical advancements that depended on the use of mice implanted with human fetal tissue obtained from recently aborted fetuses that would have otherwise been discarded. These advancements include the development of the measles vaccine, as well as insights into how HIV transitions into AIDs that led to the development of the drug azidothymidine (AZT).
The authors ask those opposed to the use of human fetal tissue in research to recognize that they are supporting roadblocks to medical advancements. “We believe that those who support a ban on the use of fetal tissue are halting medical progress and therefore endangering the health and lives of many, and for this they should accept responsibility,” they write. “At the very least, we challenge them to be true to their beliefs: if they wish to short-circuit a scientific process that has led to medical advances, they should pledge to not accept for themselves the health benefits that such advances provide.”
McCune, J.M. & Weissman, I.L. (2019) The Ban on US Government Funding Research Using Human Fetal Tissues: How Does This Fit with the NIH Mission to Advance Medical Science for the Benefit of the Citizenry. Stem Cell Reports. doi.org/10.1016/j.stemcr.2019.10.003.