Bioethics News

Most research using foetal tissue focuses on infectious diseases

Foetal tissue research has featured prominently in headlines this year, after an anti-abortion activist group filmed Planned Parenthood officials talking about sales of foetal parts to researchers. Their videos created a huge political controversy and, at a Colorado clinic, a gunman shot dead three people. Although he is not very coherent, he reportedly told police “no more baby parts”.

But less is known about what the scientists do with the tissue. A journalist for Nature, Meredith Wadman, combed through a National Institutes of Health database of research grants funded in 2014 to identify those which used foetal tissue. She found that the NIH had funded 164 of these projects, at a cost of US$76 million. This is only 0.27% of its grants.

Supporters of the research argue that the use of foetal tissue is legal, that it would otherwise be destroyed, and that it has helped to achieve significant medical advances. If they had other sources, they would use them, scientists said.

Here is what Nature found: 

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