Fetal Tissue Research
Fetal tissue research has been conducted in the United States since the middle of the twentieth century. Its practice became more common as the amount of biomedical research increased
and as restrictions on the availability of abortion decreased. Research on fetal tissue led to significant advances in the scientific understanding of fetal development and in the diagnosis and treatment of fetal diseases and defects, including the development of amniocentesis as a diagnostic tool. It also played a role in advancing the scientific understanding of cancer, immunology, and transplantation.
Because fetal tissue grows more rapidly, is more flexible than other human tissue, and is less likely to be rejected by the immune system, it has also been used to treat diseases through transplantation. Fetal tissue transplantation usually involves the injection of fetal cells into a diseased organ such as the brain or pancreas. Many scientists believe that fetal tissue transplantation will lead to significant new developments in medical science. Researchers have already had limited success in using fetal tissue transplants to treat patients with Parkinson's disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, and other illnesses. Although most medical ethicists agree that these new procedures hold great promise, they warn that the use of fetal tissue must be strictly regulated in order to avoid ethical abuses.