It is not clear from the HHS announcement what criteria would have to be met for a research project using aborted fetal tissue in order to get approval from this ethics advisory board.
The Department of Health and Human Services says its decision to place new restrictions on the use of human fetal tissue in medical research follows a review that began last September of HHS research involving such tissue. There have always been strict rules around how it can be procured and used.
"Promoting the dignity of human life from conception to natural death is one of the very top priorities of President Trump's administration", the HHS announcement said, in a nod to Christian conservatives who have been a main part of the president's political base.
"Today, fetal tissue is still making an impact, with clinical trials underway using cells from fetal tissue to treat conditions including Parkinson's disease, ALS, and spinal cord injury", said Doug Melton, co-director of Harvard's Stem Cell Institute and president of the International Society for Stem Cell Research.
Fetal tissue is used in research on HIV and childhood cancers, treatments that enlist the body's immune system to battle cancer, and the hunt for a vaccine against the Zika virus, a cause of birth defects.
The Trump administration said it would continue to fund research into alternatives to fetal tissue from elective abortions.
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Wednesday's announcement turns on its head an assurance to scientists late a year ago at an invitation-only NIH workshop on fetal tissue research.
Last year, the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) received a letter from the HHS demanding the Gladstone Institutes lab there to stop procuring fetal tissue for their HIV research, Science reported.
Privately funded or university-led research is not affected by the policy.
Megan Thielking contributed reporting. This severely limits research done on HIV.
Advanced Bioscience Resources's contract, which was worth almost $16,000, was used to "develop testing protocols", by injecting the tissue into lab mice, according to HHS. Opponents, however, say that newer methods, including the use of thymus tissue from newborn infants who undergo heart surgeries, appear promising. The firm had been targeted by the same antiabortion activists who filmed undercover videos of Planned Parenthood officials and heavily edited them in an attempt to discredit the organization. The contract previously had been renewed annually and later in 90-day increments. That is the funding that expires on Wednesday. The NIH is funding a $20 million program to "develop, demonstrate, and validate experimental models that do not rely on human fetal tissue from elective abortions".
At a House hearing on the issue last December, neuroscientist Sally Temple told lawmakers the consensus opinion in the scientific community is that there is now no adequate substitute for fetal tissue in some research areas.
"This is consistent with that direction and there will be continued work on the pro-life agenda throughout the rest of the first term and the second term as well, and so we will always work to err on the side of life in all critical decisions that come to the Oval Office at the president's direction", the official said.