Wednesday, August 12, 2015

"Science Needs Fetal Tissue": Defends Planned Parenthood

Scientists say fetal tissue remains essential for vaccines and developing treatments

BY COLLIN BINKLEY, ASSOCIATED PRESS AND CARLA K. JOHNSON, ASSOCIATED PRESS August 11, 2015 at 11:35 AM EDT
http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/medical-researchers-say-fetal-tissue-remains-essential/

Excerpt:
The furor on Capitol Hill over Planned Parenthood has stoked a debateabout the use of tissue from aborted fetuses in medical research, but U.S. scientists have been using such cells for decades to develop vaccines and seek treatments for a host of ailments, from vision loss and neurological disorders to cancer and AIDS.
Anti-abortion activists set off the uproar by releasing undercover videos of Planned Parenthood officials that raised questions of whether the organization was profiting from the sale of fetal tissue. Planned Parenthood has denied making any profit and said it charges fees solely to cover its costs.
University laboratories that buy such cells strongly defend their research, saying tissue that would otherwise be thrown out has played a vital role in lifesaving medical advances and holds great potential for further breakthroughs.
Fetal cells are considered ideal because they divide rapidly, adapt to new environments easily and are less susceptible to rejection than adult cells when transplanted.
“If researchers are unable to work with fetal tissue, there is a huge list of diseases for which researchers would move much more slowly, rather than quickly, to find their cause and how they can be cured,” Stanford University spokeswoman Lisa Lapin said in an email.
From 2011 through 2014 alone, 97 research institutions — mostly universities and hospitals — received a total of $280 million in federal grants for fetal tissue research from the National Institutes of Health. A few institutions have consistently gotten large shares of that money, including Yale, the University of California and Massachusetts General Hospital, which is affiliated with Harvard.
The U.S. government prohibits the sale of fetal tissue for profit and requires separation between researchers and the women who donate fetuses. Some schools go further, requiring written consent from donors.
Many major universities declined to make scientists available for interviews about their fetal tissue work, saying they fear for the researchers’ safety because the issue is so highly charged. The Planned Parenthood uproar led to a failed attempt by Republicans to strip the organization of federal funding.
U.S. scientists have been using such cells for decades to develop vaccines and seek treatments for a host of ailments, from vision loss and neurological disorders to cancer and AIDS.Researchers use fetal tissue to understand cell biology and human development. Others use it to look for treatments for AIDS. Research on spinal cord injuries and eyesight-robbing macular degeneration involves transplanting fetal cells into patients. European researchers recently began putting fetal tissue into patients’ brains to try to treat Parkinson’s, a strategy that previously had mixed results.
Some scientists are looking for alternatives to fetal tissue, such as using adult cells that have been “reprogrammed” to their earlier forms. But those techniques are still being refined, and some fields are likely to remain reliant on fetal tissue, such as the study of fetal development.
Vaccines have been one of the chief public benefits of fetal tissue research. Vaccines for hepatitis A, German measles, chickenpox and rabies, for example, were developed using cell lines grown from tissue from two elective abortions, one in England and one in Sweden, that were performed in the 1960s.

No comments: