Harvard Background Paper on Fetal Tissue Research

Terence P. Jeffrey | August 7, 2018 | 10:22am EDT
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(CNSNews.com) - On July 7, 2016, in response to an inquiry from Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D.-Ill.), who was the ranking member on the House Energy and Commerce Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, Harvard University provided the committee with a “background paper” on fetal tissue research. This paper explained how fetal tissue is used to create mice with human immune systems and why this fetal tissue must come from abortions rather than miscarriages. The entire background paper and a cover letter from Harvard’s public affairs office can be found at pages 23-28 of the pdf linked here.

A key passage from that background paper states the following:

“Mice that have human immune systems are invaluable scientific resources, but these mice are engineered to this condition only by means of the use of human fetal material. These mice allow us to model and better understand the auto-immune attack that leads to type 1 diabetes, among other diseases. This works by combining human immune and insulin-producing cells in a living system (the mouse). Similar approaches are being used to learn how to make other transplantable cells and tissue ‘invisible’ to immune system attack so that they might serve as ‘universal donor’ stem cells for use in a wide variety of different transplantation strategies. Here, the use of fetal blood- and immune system-forming cells transplanted into mice allows the ‘universal donor’ cells and tissues to be tested for their ability to resist rejection by a human immune system. In these experiments the use of fetal blood-forming material is far superior to other sources such as adult bone marrow or even cord blood. Better research leads to better therapies.

“If human fetal tissue is needed, why can it not be obtained from miscarriages instead of abortion? Here, timing is very important. Almost all miscarriages happen at home or in locations in which fetal material is not recovered and, importantly, preserved in a usable state. Just as obtaining tissue during a scheduled surgery or an in-hospital autopsy soon after death provides tissue that is untainted by decay relative to obtaining those same tissues from the morgue or a funeral home, obtaining fetal material from elective pregnancy termination is far superior to obtaining whatever material might be recoverable following spontaneous miscarriage, even assuming a mechanism existed for the collection of such material.”

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