Proposed fetal stem cell research bans would slow progress against Zika

Stem Cells

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A protein that helps Zika virus infect adult skin cells might also give the virus access to stem cells that make brain cells, suggests a study carried out on donated human fetal tissue.

The result — published in Cell Stem Cell — is part of a growing body of research that seeks to determine how Zika might cause birth defects, but that requires a type of tissue that is increasingly controversial for researchers in the United States.

Recent advances in neuroscience and cell technology have given hints as to why some babies born to Zika-infected mothers have abnormally small heads — a condition called microcephaly — and other problems, such as eye damage. But to fully understand what is happening in the womb, some scientists say that they need to study tissue from fetuses, which can be donated by couples who terminate pregnancies.

Arnold Kriegstein, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco who lead the study, says that the fetal tissue was donated by patients treated at UCSF medical facilities. But such tissue may be harder to come by, as the collection and use of fetal cells is under renewed scrutiny in the United States. Last July, an anti-abortion group called the Center for Medical Progress in Irvine, California, released video of employees from the non-profit health-care provider Planned Parenthood discussing the sale of fetal tissue from abortions for research. Members of the US House of Representatives are now investigating the use of fetal tissue in research.

Read full, original post: Zika highlights role of of controversial fetal-tissue research

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