The Trump administration has shut down at least one government-run study that uses fetal tissue implanted into mice even before federal health officials reach a decision on whether to continue such research, which is opposed by antiabortion groups.
A senior scientist at a National Institutes of Health laboratory in Montana told colleagues that the Health and Human Services Department “has directed me to discontinue procuring fetal tissue” from a firm that is the only available source, according to an email he sent to a collaborator in late September.
“This effectively stops all of our research to discover a cure for HIV,” the researcher wrote.
The research disruptions might extend to a handful of other labs using fetal tissue, all of which are part of NIH, rather than outside research institutions operating on NIH grants, according to an individual familiar with the situation.
The shutdown of the HIV research at the federal lab in Montana, first reported in Science, was never disclosed publicly by government officials, who have forbidden affected researchers from discussing what happened. But colleagues say they are incensed by the action, which has fanned a controversy that pits the biomedical research community against antiabortion activists and other social conservatives pressing the administration to stop the flow of federal grants and contracts for work involving fetal tissue. Such tissue comes from elective abortions.
“This is scientific censorship of the worst kind,” said Warner Greene, who was director of the Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology for a quarter century since its founding in 1991 and now runs an HIV research lab there. He was poised to collaborate with the Montana researcher, Kim Hasenkrug, on a new experiment that has been thwarted.