Learn More: Fetal Tissue Research

Research using fetal tissue first began in the 1930’s and has remained a resource for scientists in many different fields of study. Cell lines, developed using fetal tissue, can be used and grown indefinitely, and be utilized by researchers across the country. Fetal tissue has been used in the development of treatments for HIV/AIDS, dengue fever, and hepatitis B and C, and vaccines to prevent polio, hepatitis A, measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, and rabies.

Fetal tissue received international recognition in 1954, when the Nobel Prize for medicine was awarded for the research and development of the polio vaccine, which was developed using fetal tissue.

In 1988, the Regan administration halted federal funding for transplantation research using fetal tissue. All other fetal tissue research remained unaffected. In 1993, the National Institutes of Health Revitalization Act was passed by Congress and formalized Former President Clinton’s lifting of the moratorium effecting transplantation research.

Today, fetal tissue is used in research for Parkinson’s disease, and other neurodegenerative diseases, Down’s syndrome, and the search for an Ebola vaccine.

Several states are considering legislation to ban fetal tissue research, and some states have existing legislation that limits the donation of fetal tissue or its use in research, including Ohio, North Dakota and South Dakota. Some policymakers are trying to ban fetal tissue research at the federal level; on July 22, 2015, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI-05) introduced legislation to limit the use of fetal tissue in research.

Research!America supports fetal tissue research as an important avenue for the development of new measures to prevent, treat and cure deadly and disabling diseases. Read Research!America's fact sheet on fetal tissue research.

For a more detailed account of the history of fetal tissue research, please click here. Read a joint statement on fetal tissue research. For more information on federal legislation concerning fetal tissue research, explore congress.gov.


Policy Contacts

If concerted, long-term investments in research are not made, America will lose an entire generation of young scientists.
Brenda Canine, PhD; McLaughlin Research Institute, Montana