Use of human fetal tissue for biomedical research in Australia, 1994–2002

Bernard E Tuch, Hayley Scott, Muhammad T Tabiin, Liping P Wang and Patricia J Armati
Med J Aust 2003; 179 (10): 547-550.


  • Human fetal tissue is a scarce resource that has been used in Australia for biomedical research since 1980. From 1994 to 2002, it has been used for research by 19 biomedical researchers at 12 separate Australian institutions (four universities, six major teaching hospitals and two research institutes).

  • With an average of 265 samples distributed annually, researchers have conducted experiments in biomedical research with the approval of their Human Ethics Committees, and published 74 manuscripts in peer reviewed journals over the past decade.

  • The tissue is obtained from therapeutic termination of pregnancies at 8–20 weeks’, but mostly 14–18 weeks’, gestation. The average number of fetuses obtained over the past 10 years was 108 per annum.

  • Our understanding of the pathogenesis of human diseases such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis, retinopathy of prematurity and osteoporosis has been advanced because of such experiments, and better drug treatment of disorders such as osteoarthritis has been made possible with the use of human fetal tissue.

  • The benefits of human fetal tissue research need greater recognition.

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  • Bernard E Tuch1
  • Hayley Scott2
  • Muhammad T Tabiin3
  • Liping P Wang4
  • Patricia J Armati5

  • 1 Diabetes Transplant Unit, Prince of Wales Hospital and University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW.
  • 2 Neurological Unit, School of Biological Sciences, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW.


Competing interests:

None identified.

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