20-week-old fetal tissue
put in lab mice
Health agency confirms taxpayer-funded AIDS research program
By Terence P. Jeffrey
© 2001 Human Events
Originally Published on Monday, May 14, 2001
The U.S. government, according to a written statement by the National
Institutes of Health, or NIH, funded the transplantation of human
fetal tissue taken from abortions performed in the 20th week of pregnancy
into a laboratory mouse that is used in AIDS research.
President Bush has said that he wants to stop federal funding of fetal-tissue
research, and the issue is certain to spark intense debate later this
year when Congress takes up the appropriations bill for the Department
of Health and Human Services (which oversees NIH).
At the end of a series of often misleading and contradictory written
answers given in response to three sets of written questions submitted
over the past month by this reporter, NIH's Office of Communications
and Public Liaison finally conceded that a fetal tissue "research
protocol at the University of Pennsylvania did require 20-week-old
tissue." In other written responses, NIH repeatedly said the mouse
"requires fetal tissue older than 20 weeks."
The researchers in this federal program use a creature called the
SCID-hu BTL mouse, which carries a human immune system, created by
the transplantation of human fetal thymus, liver, lymph node and long
bone. Once transplanted with this tissue, the mice are infected with
HIV and, in the research at Penn, examined to see how HIV affects
the central nervous system.
In a written statement, NIH said that, since sometime prior to 1999,
researchers at Penn have used "approximately 15-18" post-20-week fetuses
in creating these mice.
When asked "by what method were these 20-week fetuses aborted?" the
NIH responded: "Abortions are coordinated through the Anatomic Gift
Foundation and Advanced Bioscience Resources, suppliers of fetal tissue,
the method of abortion is not known to the investigator."
But a spokesman at the Anatomic
Gift Foundation said that AGF permanently terminated all involvement
with fetal tissue on Jan. 1, 2000, after the organization was picketed
by pro-lifers. He said that prior to that time the organization maintained
a technician at a clinic (that was not located near Philadelphia)
that did abortions on fetuses up to "21 or 22 weeks" of gestation.
AGF paid approximately a few hundred dollars a month to "rent" space
in the clinic, the spokesman said, but neither paid for the fetal
tissue it collected there nor requested that the timing or method
of any abortion be altered. They did not "coordinate" abortions, he
said, responding to the language used by the NIH in its statement.
In response to repeated written inquiries, NIH failed to provide a
copy of the consent form used in this research or to directly answer
whether women donating post-20-week fetuses to NIH-funded research
using SCID-hu BTL mice were informed that tissue from their fetus
was going to be transplanted into a mouse. The AGF spokesman was uncertain
whether the women would have been so informed.
"We do have a consent form that allows for medical research," he said,
but "the specifics of such research may not be touched upon. The consent
form indicated that they had a desire to donate the tissue -- with
no expectation of financial gain -- for the benefit of medical science
A spokesman for Advanced Bioscience Resources said the organization
would not comment on the matter because all of its "contracts" with
researchers are confidential.
The trail that led to this government-funded late-term-abortion-based
research at Penn actually started at Pennsylvania State University
Hershey Medical Center. Since 1994, the NIH's National Institute of
Neurological Disorders and Strokes (NINDS) has funded a project called
"The Human Fetal Tissue and Primary Neuroglial Cell Culture Core"
run by a researcher at Hershey.
The latest publicly available grant abstract for this "Core" states
that it would "provide segments of human fetal long bone for construction
of SCID mice carrying xenografts of the human immune system SCID-hu
BTL (Bone-Thy/liv-Lymph Node) mouse." The abstract also says, "As
outlined, human fetal tissues and cells will be delivered from Harrisburg/Hershey
to Philadelphia within 4 hours of the surgical procedure by courier."
This tissue was destined for researchers at Penn.
Responding to a first round of written questions, NIH offered written
responses to Human Events that it said "represent a coordinated answer
between NINDS program staff and the researchers at Hershey Medical
Center." In these coordinated answers, NIH conceded that the "Core"
was extracting tissue from fetuses ranging in gestational age from
10 to 17 weeks to culture fetal brain and lung cells. (Later, NIH
said this tissue could not come from fetuses younger than 10 weeks
because at that age, "tissues are too difficult or not possible to
'Within four hours'
But when asked why it was crucial to have "human fetal tissue" arrive
in Philadelphia "within 4 hours" of an abortion, the "coordinated"
answers said, "This question relates to the SCID-hu BTL model. The
tissue for this model is no longer provided by the Human Fetal Tissue
and Primary Neuroglial Cell Culture Core due to the need for fetuses
of gestational age of greater than 20 weeks."
NIH then said: "The immune components relevant to establishment of
a SCID-hu BTL mouse model are not sufficiently developed in fetuses
of the gestational age range obtained for the Human Fetal Tissue and
Primary Neuroglial Cell Culture Core." Then it said, "A gestational
age of greater than 20 weeks is required to provide immune components
of an appropriate developmental stage."
In answer to a series of questions asking "what gestational age does
the fetal donor need to be to contribute" either long bone, or liver,
or thymus or lymph node to create the SCID-hu BTL, NIH said that the
answer was the "same" for each type of tissue -- that is, "a gestational
age of greater than 20 weeks."
In a follow-up letter, NIH was asked why 20 weeks -- rather than 18
or 24 weeks -- was the cut off point for this tissue? "Prior experimentation
by other investigators," said NIH, "had determined that immune cell
populations prior to that point were not suitable developmentally."
In the follow-up, NIH was asked when the "Core" had started and when
it had stopped providing post-20-week fetuses to create SCID-hu BTL
mice. Now, NIH said the Core had "never" provided this tissue because
"prior to starting this project researchers were told that the tissue
for this project needed to be older than 20 weeks." The decision not
to collect this tissue, said NIH, was a "scientific" decision, not
a policy one, and there was "no special documentation generated" to
Then NIH made what seemed like a categorical denial of NINDS involvement
in post-20-week fetal tissue research. Twice NIH wrote: "NINDS does
not fund research that requires fetal tissue older than 20 weeks."
Asked, "Are they still using SCID-hu BTL mice in federally funded
research at the University of Pennsylvania or Pennsylvania State,"
NIH said: "To the best of our knowledge, there are no studies conducted
at The Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine using the
SCID-hu BTL mouse."
But this answer left out Penn -- in what turned out to be a Clintonesque
In a third set of written inquiries, NIH was confronted with the abstract
for a grant titled, "SCID-hu Model For HIV Infection of the CNS."
This grant program began in 1994 and is to terminate in 2004. The
grant abstract says the researchers "have developed a novel SCID-hu
model, SCID-hu BTL (Bone-Thy/liv-Lymph Node)." They intended to use
it in three separate "specific goals" of their research. They were
doing their research at Penn. It was funded by NINDS.
Now, NIH admitted that the "research protocol at the University of
Pennsylvania did require 20-week-old tissue. All fetal tissue at all
sites was used according to NIH policy."
Is the research ongoing? The answer was cryptic: "This research began
prior to 1999 and continues using mesenteric tissue." Mesenteric tissue
comes from the membrane that connects the intestines to the abdominal
wall. It is not clear from this answer whether the research is still
using post-20-week fetal tissue.
The NIH's original, repeated stipulation that the fetal "immune tissue"
-- including the fetal liver and thymus -- that make up the SCID-hu
BTL must come from "older than 20-week" fetuses raised the obvious
question of whether the much more commonly used SCID-hu thymus/liver
model of mice also requires post-20-week abortions. The NIH itself
maintains a contract with a California organization to produce 1,200
of these mice per year -- with 50 mice being produced from each human
In written responses delivered May 9, NIH declined to answer a set
of specific questions about its own SCID-hu Thy/liv mouse contract
-- while denying that this mouse requires post-20-week abortions.
To make this denial, NIH needed to contradict its own previous "coordinated"
answers that indicated even fetal thymus and liver tissue had to be
older than 20 weeks to be "suitable developmentally." "The Hershey
researchers do not work with the Thy/Liv model," the NIH said now,
"however, they are free to express their opinion on what is needed
for its production. Again, the Thy/Liv model does not require post-20-week
In other words, the researchers at Hershey made a "scientific" decision
to shut down a program already vetted and funded by the NIH based
on what the NIH now says was a false scientific "opinion."
2001 WorldNetDaily.com, Inc.