Fetal tissue freeze may delay NIH cancer lab's research

Harrison Cook - Print  | 

The National Institutes of Health's hold on acquiring fetal tissue may affect labs conducting cancer research, according to STAT.

"If they don't procure new fetal tissue by, say, end of January, [there] will be an impact," Renate Myles, an NIH spokesperson, told STAT. Ms. Myles also said she did not want to identify which lab would be affected for "security reasons."

Ms. Myles told STAT the lab is working on cancer immunotherapy research. An additional two NIH labs, one located in Montana and the other at the Bethesda, Md.-based National Eye Institute, use fetal tissue to conduct research.

The Trump administration is auditing research that involves human fetal issue, asking scientists and staff researchers to "pause" any fetal tissue purchases beginning in September, according to Science. Any laboratory using human fetal tissue is subject to the freeze. The fetal tissue hold applies to scientists employed by NIH, but not to scientists receiving NIH grants.

Anti-abortion activists argue that fetal tissue "fuels an industry" that profits off of aborted fetuses, according to STAT. Buying and selling fetal tissue for research is not legal in all states, and federal law prohibits companies from profiting off of fetal tissue sales. The NIH said Dec. 10 it will pledge $20 million to support research into fetal tissue alternatives.

Caitlin Oakley, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson, told STAT that "by no means was [the audit] meant to halt or ban or cease research, and if procuring new fetal tissues is crucial to that work, then we will work with people to make sure that research continues."

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