Trump Bans Study Using Fetal Tissue. Purpose Of Study? Finding A Cure For HIV

U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Patrick Kelley

The Trump administration shuttered a study using fetal tissue in search of a cure for HIV, The Washington Post reported.

At least one government-run study using fetal tissue implanted in mice has been shut down by the Trump administration, The Washington Post reported on Sunday.

The study, which is seeking a cure for HIV, was shuttered in advance of federal health officials’ decision on whether the research may continue.

A senior scientist at a National Institutes of Health laboratory in Montana told colleagues that the Health and Human Services Department “has directed me to discontinue procuring fetal tissue” from a firm that is the only available source, according to an email he sent to a collaborator in late September.

“This effectively stops all of our research to discover a cure for HIV,” the researcher wrote.

The research disruptions might extend to a handful of other labs using fetal tissue, all of which are part of NIH, rather than outside research institutions operating on NIH grants, according to an individual familiar with the situation.

Researchers reportedly have been barred from speaking publicly on the issue, but those working on the study expressed anger that it was shut down.

[C]olleagues say they are incensed by the action, which has fanned a controversy that pits the biomedical research community against antiabortion activists and other social conservatives pressing the administration to stop the flow of federal grants and contracts for work involving fetal tissue. Such tissue comes from elective abortions.

“This is scientific censorship of the worst kind,” said Warner Greene, who was director of the Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology for a quarter century since its founding in 1991 and now runs an HIV research lab there. He was poised to collaborate with the Montana researcher, Kim Hasenkrug, on a new experiment that has been thwarted.

“You spend your life trying to do good experiments and organize your science carefully,” Greene said, “and suddenly, at the whim of some politicians in Washington, D.C., they remove a critical piece of your scientific armamentarium.”

According to an NIH spokesperson, researchers were told to notify HHS when they needed more fetal tissue:

An NIH spokeswoman said that when HHS began its review of fetal tissue in September, the NIH put in place a “pause” in the procurement of that kind of tissue. Researchers were instructed to notify top officials if they needed more. The spokeswoman said the NIH is investigating why that didn’t happen with Hasenkrug’s research.

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