Were cell lines derived from an aborted baby used in Trump’s COVID-19 treatment?
This is an updated, more detailed version of an article that was originally published on October 8 and later removed.
December 10, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – Following President Donald Trump’s recovery from his bout with COVID-19, debate emerged over what role cell lines derived from an aborted baby may have played in his treatment.
The focus of attention was the HEK293 cell line, which is derived from kidney tissue taken from an aborted baby in the Netherlands in the 1970s, and whether it was utilized in the treatments that Trump received.
The president touted his experience as an example of the rapid medical progress that has been made in a relatively short period of time, such as his being treated with a new “antibody cocktail” developed by the company Regeneron Pharmaceuticals.
HEK293T (a slightly modified version of the HEK293 cell line) was used in testing the antibodies used by Regeneron, but it is not in the product itself, as is the case with some medical products which use such cell lines.
The antibodies themselves are developed in CHO cells from hamster ovaries. But MIT Technology Review reports that Regeneron tests its antibodies using the HEK293T cell line. A detailed, technical explanation of the development of Regeneron’s antibody cocktail has been published at the Science journal.
HEK293 and its variants are used in the development of a large number of medical products and the MIT Technology Review suggests that it “would have taken an expert” to know that the cell line was being used in any way by Regeneron.
Remdesivir, an antiviral drug which Trump also received, was likewise tested using the HEK293T cell line.
But when the story broke in October a number of news sources, most notably The New York Times, conflated Trump’s use of the drugs with decisions by his administration to remove funding from some projects using human fetal tissue (HFT) from aborted babies and the institution of policies which have had the effect of making it more difficult for projects which use HFT from aborted babies to receive federal funding.
However, federal funding applications for projects using already established human fetal cell lines, such as HEK293, were not impacted by the new policy on HFT funding brought in by the Trump administration. In fact, the policy specifically excluded such cell lines from its definition of research involving HFT, along with embryonic stem cells or embryonic cell lines.
Controversy broke out in 2018 when a U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) notice surfaced detailing a contract to the fetal tissue procurement firm Advanced Bioscience Resources, Inc. (ABR) to acquire “Tissue for Humanized Mice.” Specifically, the experiments entailed implanting human thymus and liver tissue and stem cells from a human liver into a mouse, to give it a more human-like immune system for the purpose of testing drugs.
Dozens of pro-life leaders and congressmen successfully pressured the FDA and HHS to terminate the contract, but concerns remained over nearly $100 million in tax dollars that continued to pay for other research using tissue and organs from aborted babies.
In response, the Trump administration pledged to review the relevant funding and organizing via listening sessions with scientists, ethicists, and pro-life groups on the research.
Meanwhile some scientists and sections of the mainstream media have claimed that the Trump administration’s policy of restricting funding for projects involving HFT has hampered the development of treatments for COVID-19.
In August this year the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH’s) Human Fetal Tissue Research Ethics Advisory Board released an update on its work reviewing applications to fund research using tissue and organs from aborted babies, revealing that it had recommended against giving taxpayer dollars to 13 of 14 proposals.
But also earlier this year the NIH approved 70 new embryonic stem cell lines for use in projects eligible for federally funded research. The new cell lines come from human embryos created and destroyed in a laboratory.
As part of “Operation Warp Speed” the Trump Administration has also invested billions of dollars into a number of COVID-19 vaccines which use cell lines from aborted babies in their development.
LifeSiteNews has produced an extensive COVID-19 vaccines resources page. View it here.