Trump's "miracle" COVID-19 treatment was developed using cells derived from an aborted fetus: report
United States President Donald Trump leaves the White House for the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on the South Lawn of the White House on October 2, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump have both tested positive for coronavirus. Drew Angerer / Getty Images
President Donald Trump wasn't shy in praising the experimental COVID-19 treatments he received last week after testing positive. In videos posted on Twitter, the President mistakenly labeled the therapeutics as "cures" and "miracles that come down from God".
One of the treatments made available to Trump would have been defeated by his own efforts to thwart the scientific research that made it possible: fetal cell tissue through abortions.
According to Trump's personal physician Dr. Sean Conley received a high-dose infusion of monoclonal antibodies last Friday as part of his treatment for COVID-19 infection. Trump was one of the first 10 patients to receive treatment under the compassionate use emergency line, Salon previously reported. A few hours after the injection, the President was flown to Walter Reed Medical Center.
The fully human antibody molecules from pharmaceutical company Regeneron come from two sources: antibodies identified by people who have recovered from COVID-19 and the company's "VelocImmune" mice that have been genetically engineered to have a human immune system . according to a statement by the drug manufacturer to Salon.
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The laboratory tests used to evaluate the effectiveness of the antibodies were derived from what the MIT Technology Review called the standard cell supply known as HEK 293T. It emerged as kidney tissue that came from an abortion in the Netherlands in 1973, the same year that Roe v. Wade was decided.
These cells have since been "immortalized" in laboratories - they divide endlessly, much like cancer growth - and have undergone other genetic changes, according to MIT. Over such a period of time they can detach themselves from their origin.
"That's how you want to analyze it," a Regeneron spokesman told MIT. "But the 293T cell lines available today are not considered fetal tissue, and we have not otherwise used fetal tissue."
However, the connecting line between the cell lines remains unbroken. The President undoubtedly benefited medically from cells obtained from aborted fetuses.
Regeneron told MIT that other laboratories are also using 293T cells to make so-called "pseudoparticles" or virus-like bodies that contain the "spike" protein of the coronavirus. These particles are necessary to test how different antibodies against the virus work. Both antibodies in Regeneron's treatment had passed these tests, MIT reported.
The Trump administration has restricted medical research using fetal tissue due to abortion. In 2019, Trump even overridden senior administrative scientists like Secretary of State for Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar and tightened controls over the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to fund this research. It was an effort that Vice President Mike Pence had advanced in an overt appeal to religious conservative voters.
"This is a great victory for life, and we thank President Trump for taking decisive action," said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion lobby group. "It's outrageous and disgusting that we used our tax dollars to participate in the experiments on baby body parts."
At some point this year, the Food and Drug Administration website removed a PDF explaining the origins and uses of HEK 293 fetus cells, according to Salon's internet archive search.
That August, the Ethics Panel on Human Fetal Tissue Research, which HHS established in February and which includes a number of anti-abortion officers, recommended Azar not to fund 13 of 14 research proposals involving fetal cells.
While these denials helped block access to new abortion tissue - contrary to research on common cell lines that has been used for many years - some scientists want to study abortion tissues closely to create new cell lines.
Trump Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett is an anti-electoral religious conservative and the court is likely to see a case about fetal tissue burial requirements soon.
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According to a statement by Regeneron to Salon, the development and manufacture of the president's "miracle" antibody cocktail was carried out in part with federal funding from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), which operates under the HHS and works with the NIH, whose research funding is from Trump and other administration conservatives.
In a video posted on social media on Wednesday, Trump said he would make abortion-derived treatment "free" for COVID-19 patients.
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