The Biden Administration Ends Limits on the Use of Fetal Tissue for Research

The decision reverses Trump administration rules and allows scientists to use tissue derived from elective abortions to develop treatments for diseases like cancer and AIDS.

By Apoorva Mandavilli

The Biden administration on Friday lifted restrictions on the use of fetal tissue for medical research, reversing rules imposed in 2019 by President Donald J. Trump.

The new rules, disclosed by the National Institutes of Health, allow scientists to use tissue derived from elective abortions to study and develop treatments for diseases including diabetes, cancer, AIDS and Covid-19.

The Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the N.I.H., essentially restored the guidelines in place during the Obama administration. The N.I.H. will “manage and oversee research using human fetal tissue according to policies and procedures that were in place” before the June 2019 ban, the agency said in an emailed statement on Saturday. The development was first reported on Friday by The Washington Post.

Scientists may purchase fetal tissue from sources approved before the ban, and all projects that had been approved before the Trump administration’s restrictions “will be reinstated without further review,” according to an email sent to scientists by the N.I.H.

“That’s fantastic,” said Dr. Mike McCune, an H.I.V. expert at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and professor emeritus at the University of California, San Francisco. But he warned that it may take some time for research to recover.

Working with fetal tissue is a specialized skill and many of the scientists with that expertise have left the field, he said. “People with decades of experience had to find other jobs,” he said. “All of that will have to be reconstituted to make it start again — but they will.”

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