By Effectively Banning The Use Of Fetal Tissue, Trump Has Upended HIV Research


The Trump administration's extra requirement for the NIH is impeding on research studying major diseases, such as AIDS.

The Trump administration announced seven months ago that it would limit funding of research that uses fetal tissue causing research into major diseases such as AIDS, Down syndrome, and diabetes to be disrupted, according to The Washington Post.

The administration imposed an extra requirement for National Institutes of Health grant applications to undergo a review by a new ethics advisory board if the research involved fetal tissue. 

The board has not yet been established, with no clear date for when it would be convened. Grant funding for research that uses fetal tissue has been effectively halted. 

“No researcher in their right mind wants to write a grant with fetal tissue right now,” said one Boston-based scientist who relies on mic transplanted with such tissue for 85 to 90 percent of his lab’s work, which explores how antibodies could be used to prevent or treat HIV. 

The scientist is one of many who have spoken on the condition of anonymity because they have either received threats from antiabortion activists or have been cautioned by university officials against speaking out. 

The NIH is by far the nation’s largest funding source for biomedical research, and has paid for most of the work involving fetal tissue. It has been pivotal to understanding and developing therapies for HIV, cancers, neurological problems, sickle cell disease, eye disorders, and other conditions. 

“This policy is as clear as mud as to how this is going to work,” said Scott Kitchen, director of the Humanized Mouse Core Laboratory at the University of California at Los Angeles, which provides such mice to 70 scientists on campus and around the country. “I’ve asked my way all the way up the ladder” within NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the National Cancer Institute. “I don’t think the people I am talking to know.”

Jerome Zack, director of UCLA’s Center for AIDS Research, worries that his lab, which works with humanized mice, will need to turn trainees away. 

“I might not put them on a humanized mouse project,” Zack said of his new students eager to do their doctoral work in his lab. “Even if the mice were standing in front of you, you can’t do it if the grant says you can’t do it.”

“It’s not a small thing. My career has been based on using these tissues,” he continued. In the Trump administration’s decision to remove funding for the transplanted mice from the AIDS center’s grant, Zack said, “it was my research going down the drain.”

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