This story was recently picked up again after it was first published in January, and for good reason.
According to a report from Live Science, scientists at Ganogen, Inc., a biotech company in California that is committed to “ending the organ donor shortage,” is harvesting organs from aborted babies and transplanting them into lab rats in hopes of growing human organs.
“Researchers say they have developed a new technique that will get more kidneys to people who need transplants, but the method is sure to be controversial: The research shows that it is feasible to remove a kidney from an aborted human fetus, and implant the organ into a rat, where the kidney can grow to a larger size,” the Live Science article stated. “It's possible that further work could find a way to grow kidneys large enough that they could be transplanted into a person, the researchers said, although much more research is needed to determine whether this could be done.”
"Our long-term goal is to grow human organs in animals, to end the human donor shortage,” medical student and CEO of the company Eugene Gu said in the article.
CNS News has some of the blowback:
Although ending the human donor shortage seems like a noble cause, using aborted babies to solve the problem is not acceptable, according to pro-life activist and former labor and delivery nurse Jill Stanek.
"This is horrific on so many levels,” Stanek told CNSNews.com, calling it “abominable” to take organs from murdered pre-born babies to use in post-born humans.
“It is easy to see where this is heading: toward the day when human beings will be grown in the lab specifically for organ and tissue harvesting,” said Stanek, who has devoted herself to the pro-life cause after witnessing aborted babies who survived being left to die in the hospital where she worked.
Hank Greely, an ethical and legal expert on biomedical science at Stanford Law School, is quoted in the Live Science article as saying that the decision to have an abortion must not be linked to this kind of research.
"The key issues are the existence of the pregnant woman's consent and the total separation of the decision to abort from the decision to let the fetal remains be used in research," Greely told Live Science.
In other words, a woman must have already decided to have an abortion before she can be asked whether she is willing to donate the fetus for research, according to Live Science.
Additionally, NYU bioethicist Arthur Caplan told Live Science that he isn’t so much concerned with the research itself, but did say that the public outcry would prevent the use of such organs.
"[T]here is no way we're ever going to use fetal human kidneys or any other solid organs for transplant," he said. "American society is morally uncomfortable enough about abortion that growing organs from fetal remains will never be accepted, and will be banned in state after state."
In a Reddit Q&A with Gu held last month, the scientist was asked about the use of aborted fetuses to do this research and if “such a complicated ethical question … impair[s] [his] work”?
“We used organs from 17 week gestation human fetuses obtained from abortion procedures. It is definitely a complicated ethical question, but one way to view it is that we do not encourage abortions in any shape or form,” he said before explaining the “frequent” use of fetal tissue throughout “all of science and industry.”
“If human fetal tissues are going to be either a.) thrown into the trash, b.) used for basic science research, or even c.) used to research flavor enhancers, then it is perhaps the most appropriate to use them to directly save the life of another baby or child on the transplant waiting list. In this sense, we do not believe there are any ethical issues with our quest to save patient lives.”
The user who posed the question then thanked Gu for his response and suggested that there should be “more educational info available to the general public on the issue.”
Another commenter responded “It's almost like we're the CIA withholding information for the better.”