BREAKING NEWS : Woman dies after motorcycle collides with car Full Story

HHS contradicts reports on fetal tissue research contract

Anonymous reporting led to an "inaccurate" story about federal funding of controversial fetal tissue researc...

Posted: Dec 6, 2018 3:06 PM
Updated: Dec 6, 2018 3:06 PM

Anonymous reporting led to an "inaccurate" story about federal funding of controversial fetal tissue research, the US Department of Health and Human Services said Wednesday.

HHS's National Institutes of Health has made no decision on whether to extend a University of California, San Francisco contract for controversial research involving fetal tissue, said Caitlin Oakley, a spokeswoman for HHS.

Abortion

Biology

Biotechnology

Business and industry sectors

Business, economy and trade

Communicable disease control

Diseases and disorders

Government and public administration

Government bodies and offices

Government departments and authorities

Government organizations - Intl

Government organizations - US

Health and medical

Health departments

Infectious diseases

Medical biotechnology

Medical fields and specialties

Medical research

Medical treatments and procedures

National Institutes of Health

Pharmaceuticals

Public health

Science

Sexual and reproductive health

Stem cells

US Department of Health and Human Services

US federal departments and agencies

US Food and Drug Administration

Vaccination and immunization

Her statement contradicts Washington Post reporting Tuesday that the "Trump administration has thrown into doubt a multimillion-dollar research contract" with UCSF to test new treatments for HIV.

Claire Doan, a spokeswoman for the University of California Office of the President, verified that the university "conducts research using fetal tissue that is vital to finding treatments and cures for a wide variety of adult and childhood diseases and medical conditions."

According to the Post, an anonymous source said a National Institutes of Health official told a UCSF investigator that the decision to end a seven-year contract before its completion was coming from the "highest levels."

"Unfortunately, the Washington Post chose to report assertions that are completely false," Oakley said.

Oakley said that there were "no traceable records" proving these claims made by the Post's anonymous source and that "multiple, on-the-record assurances from senior officials at both the National Institutes of Health and in the Office of the Secretary" told the Post that the claims were incorrect.

The Post also reported that a letter from the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases said the contract would continue for 90 days rather than the expected year-long renewal.

"No contracting official would have had the authority to impart any communication to UCSF that the contract was being cancelled because no decision has been made," Oakley said.

Renate Myles, a spokeswoman for the NIH, said on Thursday that "NIH did, however, send a letter to UCSF to notify them of our intent to ensure continuity of service for 90 days while the audit continues and until a final decision is made on the contract."

Doan would not comment, though she said the "research is conducted in full compliance with federal and state law, as well as ethical standards."

Oakley emphasized that "a decision will be made when the contract has been reviewed, pursuant to the ongoing audit/review process" initiated by the HHS in September.

The battle over human fetal tissue research

Two months ago, the HHS did terminate a contract: one struck between the Food and Drug Administration (an agency within the HHS) and a biotech company that was slated to provide about $16,000 of human fetal tissue for federal research.

The FDA explained in a notice posted online that "fresh human tissues are required" to create mice with human immune systems, which is necessary when testing drugs "for safety and efficacy."

However, a response letter from more than 80 House Republications to the FDA called for the cancellation of this federal contract with Advanced Bioscience Resources Inc.

In September, the HHS not only terminated the contract, it stated that "in light of the serious regulatory, moral, and ethical considerations involved," it had "initiated a comprehensive review of all research involving fetal tissue" while "continuing to review whether adequate alternatives exist to the use of human fetal tissue in HHS funded research."

Generally, fetal tissue is obtained through elective abortions and is used to develop cells that "mimic many of the properties that they have in a living body, and therefore can be used as a model for researchers," according to a 2015 Congressional Research Service report.

The National Institutes of Health spends about $100 million a year on research involving human fetal tissue, government data shows. Yet for decades, those opposed to abortion have sought to prohibit using federal funds to support research using human fetal tissue.

Fetal tissue is used to make commonly used vaccines

"Since the 1930s, fetal tissue has been a critical component of biomedical science and breakthroughs that fundamentally changed the practice of medicine," Doan said. She added that fetal tissue was used in the development of "the polio vaccine that saved hundreds of thousands of lives and merited the 1954 Nobel Prize for Medicine."

Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, explains in an educational video on the hospital's website that five commonly used contemporary vaccines are made using fetal cells: rubella (German measles) vaccine, hepatitis A virus vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, shingles vaccine and rabies vaccine, which is usually given to people bitten by animals that might transmit the rare disease.

Unlike bacteria, viruses on which vaccines are based cannot grow outside cells; they tend to grow better in human cells, and fetal cells are best, he noted.

"There were two elective abortions that were performed in the early 1960s. One was performed in England; the other was performed in Sweden. And those two elective abortions then created cells which have been used ever since," according to Offit.

Despite the usefulness of fetal cells when making vaccines, in 1988, HHS placed a moratorium on federal funding of research using human fetal tissue from elective abortions. Also that year, Congress passed an amendment (that President Ronald Reagan signed into law) to the National Organ Transplant Act that prohibited the transfer of human organs, including fetal organs and their subparts, for "valuable consideration, or payment."

President Clinton lifted the moratorium in 1993, and Congress legalized funding for fetal tissue research that year.

Is human fetal tissue really necessary for medical research?

Kyle Orwig, an associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences, and molecular genetics and biochemistry at the University of Pittsburgh, said he thinks "human fetal tissue research is necessary." Although many questions can be answered with cells in a Petri dish, "there is no way that stem cell technologies, organoid cultures or other techniques can model the complex and dynamic events" that occur during human fetal development.

"Other animal models, stem cells, organoids and other cutting edge technologies can provide important insights that reduce (but not eliminate) the requirement for human fetal tissues in research," said Orwig, who spoke generally and did not address the possible National Institutes of Health contract dispute with UCSF.

Without fetal tissue research, "scientists would be working in a vacuum subject to overinterpretation of data generated in a Petri dish," he said, adding that this would have "dangerous implications" for human medicine.

Patricia Morris, a board member of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology and a professor in the Reproductive Health Program at Rockefeller University, said human fetal tissue -- specifically that derived from elective abortions -- is "absolutely essential."

"There is no substitute today," said Morris, who also did not comment on the contract with UCSF. "No reproducible, robust and clinically relevant materials are otherwise available." She added that the "materials obtained from spontaneous abortions" are not only "highly variable" but often contain "critical gene defects."

A similar balancing of ethical and moral questions occurred during the decades of debate about research using stem cells derived from human embryos.

In 2001, President George W. Bush attempted a compromise when he introduced a ban on federal funding of research on newly created human embryonic stem cell lines yet allowed for continued funding of research on lines created prior to that date. Bush also publicly called for the use of alternatives. In 2009, President Barack Obama revoked these orders and allowed the National Institutes of Health to issue new criteria for stem cell research.

The hope for alternatives has been revived by the current administration. In its September statement, HHS concluded that it is continuing to review "whether adequate alternatives exist to the use of human fetal tissue" and "will ensure that efforts to develop such alternatives are funded and accelerated."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 30901

Reported Deaths: 1964
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion9040531
Lake3191167
Cass15796
Allen121365
St. Joseph113234
Hendricks110365
Hamilton109291
Johnson1065102
Elkhart93827
Madison57658
Bartholomew46733
Porter46521
Clark45038
LaPorte38721
Tippecanoe3563
Jackson3531
Howard34417
Delaware34027
Hancock31527
Shelby31121
Floyd31138
Boone27935
Morgan25724
Vanderburgh2402
Decatur22131
White2128
Montgomery21114
Clinton2041
Harrison18321
Grant17820
Noble17420
Dubois1712
Greene16723
Warrick16326
Dearborn16221
Monroe15810
Henry1556
Lawrence14222
Miami1351
Vigo1357
Putnam1297
Jennings1264
Orange12222
Scott1153
Ripley1126
Franklin1068
Carroll882
Daviess8116
Steuben762
Newton7210
Wabash722
Kosciusko711
Wayne665
Marshall611
LaGrange592
Washington521
Jasper521
Fayette504
Fulton461
Rush452
Jefferson411
Jay410
Clay381
Pulaski380
Randolph373
Whitley342
Brown331
Sullivan311
Starke303
Owen301
DeKalb281
Knox240
Benton240
Crawford230
Perry230
Huntington222
Tipton221
Wells220
Switzerland190
Blackford191
Fountain172
Parke170
Posey170
Spencer141
Gibson132
Ohio130
Adams121
Warren121
Martin100
Union80
Vermillion80
Pike50
Unassigned0152

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 31408

Reported Deaths: 1956
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin5097224
Cuyahoga3851207
Marion260821
Hamilton2349128
Lucas2087228
Pickaway203835
Mahoning1317169
Summit1204159
Butler75025
Stark67089
Lorain63759
Montgomery57814
Trumbull51442
Columbiana47750
Belmont38112
Miami34630
Warren31919
Portage30958
Tuscarawas3062
Delaware29211
Ashtabula27431
Medina27419
Wood26945
Lake26312
Geauga25029
Wayne24850
Fairfield2333
Licking20110
Clark1956
Allen18431
Richland1793
Mercer1783
Clermont1775
Darke14716
Erie1374
Madison1327
Washington11618
Morrow1041
Crawford1043
Greene925
Ottawa877
Putnam8514
Monroe719
Sandusky6510
Hocking643
Ross622
Jefferson622
Auglaize583
Williams511
Huron491
Hancock481
Muskingum440
Clinton430
Union420
Hardin380
Logan380
Shelby372
Wyandot362
Fulton350
Fayette340
Defiance322
Preble301
Guernsey300
Carroll282
Lawrence280
Champaign261
Brown241
Coshocton240
Knox231
Holmes221
Vinton190
Highland181
Perry171
Seneca172
Ashland170
Henry140
Scioto140
Athens131
Paulding130
Jackson110
Harrison100
Adams81
Gallia71
Meigs60
Pike60
Noble50
Morgan50
Van Wert50
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Scattered Clouds
86° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 88°
Angola
Clear
86° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 87°
Huntington
Clear
84° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 86°
Decatur
Clear
86° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 86°
Van Wert
Clear
86° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 86°
Few PM Storms Memorial Day
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events