Vanderbilt among universities getting fetal tissue research funding

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Vanderbilt University is one of nearly 100 research institutions to receive federal funding for fetal tissue research between 2011 and 2014 — a practice that has unleashed a furor on Capitol Hill after anti-abortion activists recently released undercover videos pertaining to such research.

The private Tennessee university received $10 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health for fetal tissue research in 2011 and 2012, most of which funded a diabetes study that won a national award for its director last year.

Anti-abortion activists’ release of undercover videos of Planned Parenthood discussing the sale of fetal tissue has spurred a backlash among some politicians on Capitol Hill and on the Republican presidential campaign trail.

University laboratories defend their research, saying tissue that would otherwise be thrown out has played a vital role in lifesaving medical advances and holds great potential for further breakthroughs.

Fetal cells are considered ideal because they divide rapidly, adapt to new environments easily and are less susceptible to rejection than adult cells when transplanted.

The Associated Press reported this week that 97 research institutions — mostly universities and hospitals — received a total of $280 million in federal grants for fetal tissue research from the National Institutes of Health between 2011 and 2014.