Trump administration restricts medical research using fetal tissue

The Trump administration will be placing new restrictions on the use of human fetal tissue in medical research by government agencies, including the National Institute of Health (NIH), according to an announcement made on Wednesday.

Going forward, federal scientists will be prohibited from obtaining new tissue samples from elective abortions for ongoing research projects. The move essentially ends fetal tissue research within the NIH. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced in a statement it would immediately cancel a $2 million-per-year contract with the University of California San Francisco, a contract that started in 2013, for research involving fetal tissue from abortions.

Other university research projects will be subject to case-by-case review, the agency said. Researchers who want to renew projects or apply for new grants involving fetal tissue will have to undergo review by an ethics advisory board.

According to the Congressional Research Service, the NIH has used fetal tissue for research since the 1950s. Researchers use fetal tissue to produce mice with humanlike immune systems, which gives scientists the ability to find effective treatments for serious and life-threatening disease. Though the practice has been replaced in many cases, scientists say the tissue is crucial for studies that benefit millions of patients, including active research efforts aiming to find cures for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and cancer.

The funding currently used for fetal research will be reappropriated to other forms of scientific research, including stem cell research, experts say. It is unclear how or if this will affect the integrative healthcare community, which needs research to establish efficacy of supplements and products supporting a holistic, preventative approach to patient care.

What are your thoughts on the research restrictions and how they affect integrative healthcare? E-mail your comments to Integrative Pracititoner editor Katherine Rushlau at [email protected].