Ban on fetal tissue research would be a mistake
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Sept. 10, 2011 |(2) Comments

A report last week in PLoS Biology, a peer-reviewed scientific journal, offers a ready example of why Wisconsin lawmakers should tread carefully around a proposal to ban research using fetal tissue.

Researchers at the University of California and Texas A&M discovered that a somewhat mysterious soft tissue found in the fetus during early development in the womb plays a vital role in the formation of mature beta cells, the sole source of the body's insulin.

Scientists believe the discovery may lead to new ways of addressing Type I and Type II diabetes, conditions that have reached epidemic proportions in the United States and beyond.

It just the latest example of how researchers in Wisconsin and beyond use cells derived from human fetal tissue to pursue cures for chronic diseases, to develop and produce vaccines, and to conduct basic research on a wide range of human health issues.

A bill introduced in the Wisconsin Legislature would make it a crime for Wisconsin researchers to continue using those cells, even though they have done so legally, ethically and effectively for 50 years or more.

Lawmakers who believe they are merely standing firm against abortion should think twice about the far-reaching effects of this bill on medical research and the state's innovation economy.

Assembly Bill 214 and Senate Bill 172 would prohibit "a person knowingly and for valuable consideration acquiring, receiving or otherwise transferring a fetal body part in this state."

The identical bills define cells and tissues as fetal body parts, and they also ban "providing, receiving or using for experimentation a fetal body part" in Wisconsin - even if there was no "valuable consideration."

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