The experimental antibody cocktail given President Trump to treat his Covid-19 coronavirus infection — and touted by him as a “cure,” without evidence — was tested in part using a line of fetal stem cells kept viable in laboratories for nearly half a century.
That line of cells, called 293T, is widely used in developing treatments for various diseases, including Covid-19.
The original cells came from a fetus aborted in Holland in 1973. Cloned and modified in science labs for decades, they have proven vital to medical researchers.
“Fetal tissue has unique and valuable properties that often cannot be replaced by other cell types,” according to a letter released by the International Society for Stem Cell Research in July.
The biotech company Regeneron confirmed that such testing was done on its antibody drug, but emphasized that only the long-running cell line was used.
“Because the 293T cells were acquired so long ago, and have lived so long in the laboratory, they are no longer thought of as involving abortion politics,” reports the MIT Technology Review.
“293Ts were used in testing the antibodies’ ability to neutralize the virus,” said Alexandra Bowie, a spokeswoman for Regeneron, told the New York Times. “They weren’t used in any other way, and fetal tissue was not used in the research.”
Regeneron’s cocktail of monoclonal antibodies are “synthesized in living cells and administered to help the body fight off the infection,” the Times says.
In June of last year, the Trump administration suspended federal funding for most new scientific research involving fetal tissue derived from abortions, citing “the dignity of human life to conception to natural death.”
Some Roman Catholic groups and pro-life medical workers object to the use of such cells, but the Vatican itself has cleared the way for them.
“In 2017, the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life said in reference to other vaccines that ‘currently used cell lines are very distant from the original abortions,’” reported the Daily Mail via MSN on Thursday.
‘We believe that all clinically recommended vaccinations can be used with a clear conscience and that the use of such vaccines does not signify some sort of cooperation with voluntary abortion,’ the Academy said.
Despite Trump’s enthusiasm for the Regeneron drug, scientists note that “the trials of the antibody cocktail are far from complete, and that Mr. Trump is taking a variety of drugs that may have explained why he said he felt better,” the Times says.