According to Science Mag, U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has ordered scientists employed by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) to stop acquiring new human fetal tissue for experiments. ScienceInsider has learned.that the suspension, imposed this past September without a public announcement, came as the government launched a review of all fetal tissue research funded by the federal government.
The pause affects two laboratories run by the Bethesda, Maryland–based agency, NIH officials say. In one case, it disrupted a study probing how the virus that causes AIDS initially colonizes human tissues.
“We were all poised to go and then the bombshell was dropped,” says HIV researcher Warner Greene, director of the Gladstone Center for HIV Cure Research in San Francisco, California, who was collaborating with an NIH laboratory that received the order. “The decision completely knocked our collaboration off the rails. We were devastated.”
“This effectively stops all of our research to discover a cure for HIV,” he wrote.
The order expands the scope of the Trump administration’s interventions into federally funded research that uses human fetal tissue from elective abortions, which is legal but fiercely opposed by antiabortion groups. In September, it canceled a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) contract for acquiring human fetal tissue for testing candidate drugs. This week, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which oversees NIH, told researchers at the University of California (UC), San Francisco, that it would be extending a contract for work involving human fetal tissue for just 90 days instead of the usual 1 year, prompting media reports that the department was preparing to cancel the contract. HHS denied those reports, saying it has made no decisions regarding federal funding for human fetal tissue research pending the outcome of the ongoing review of all such work.