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NIH Reverses Ban on Federally Funded Fetal Tissue Research

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), announced April 16 that it is reversing limitations on fetal tissue research established by the Trump Administration.

Limitations launched by the Trump Administration came after concerns raised by pro-life organizations in response to growing awareness of FDA contracts to acquire body parts from aborted babies that would then be used for implantation into humanized mice. Humanized mice, also known as chimera, are single organisms made up of cells from two or more organisms, containing two sets of DNA, with the code to make two separate organisms. Human-animal chimeras blur the line about what it means to be human, raising serious ethical questions about how we should use them (Munsie & Koplin, 2021).

The agency’s announcement states that they will no longer convene the Human Fetal Tissue Research Ethics Advisory Board to review new external grants and proposals using human fetal tissue. The announcement reiterates that the agency continues to require that researchers obtain consent from donors, do not pay for such tissue, and that they follow any state laws governing the research.

In January, 2021, more than 100 scientific organizations requested that President Joe Biden “swiftly rescind the human fetal tissue (HFT) research restrictions and policy change.” In addition to the scientific organizations, 26 House Democrats wrote to HHS Secretary Xavier Beccera requesting changes to the policy. In a House hearing on April 15, Becerra hinted that such an announcement might be forthcoming, saying, “We believe that we have to do the research it takes to make sure that we are incorporating innovation and getting all of those types of treatments and therapies out there to the American people” (Heidt, 2021).

While 26 House Democrats called the NIH reversal “an integral step towards protecting the advancements of our scientific community” (Heidt, 2021), pro-life organizations denounced the reversal and are working to raise awareness of its potentially devastating consequences.


Heidt, A. (2021). NIH reverses limits on human fetal tissue research [News]. The Scientist

Munsie, M., & Koplin, J. (2021). As scientists move closer to making part human, part animal

organisms, what are the concerns? [News]. The Conversation.

NIH Website announcement:

Update on Changes to NIH Requirements Regarding Proposed Human Fetal Tissue Research


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