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.
- 1. Official Committe Hansard. Senate — legislation. Community Affairs Legislation Committee. Research involving embryos and prohibition of human cloning Bill 2002. September 17, 2002: 57-71. Available at: www.aph.gov.au/hansard/senate/commttee/s5776.pdf (accessed Oct 2003).
- 2. Maitland JE. Endocrine function of human foetal pancreas [MSc thesis]. Sydney: University of Sydney, 1980.
- 3. Tuch BE. Human fetal tissue for medical research. Med J Aust 1993; 158: 637-639.
- 4. Richards M, Fong C-Y, Chan W-K, et al. Human feeders support prolonged undifferentiated growth of human inner cell masses and embryonic stem cells. Nature Biotechnol 2002; 20: 933-936.
- 5. Smith D. Sydney team uses foetuses in stem cell study. Sydney Morning Herald 2002; 7 August: 1.
- 6. Tuch BE, Sheil ARG, Ng ABP, et al. Recovery of human fetal pancreas after one year of implantation in the diabetic patient. Transplantation 1988; 46: 865-870.
- 7. Guillemin GJ, Kerr SJ, Smythe GA, et al. Kynurenine pathway metabolism in human astrocytes: a paradox for neuronal protection. J Neurochem 2001; 78: 1-13.
- 8. Slater M, Patava J, Kingham K, Mason RS. An immunoelectronmicroscopic study of the focal incorporation of growth factors into the extracellular matrix of osteoblast-like cells in vitro and the influence of 17 beta-estradiol. Am J Physiology 1994; 267: E990-E1001.
- 9. McLennan SV, Martell SY, Yue DK. Effects of meseangium glycation on matrix metalloproteinase activities: possible role in diabetic nephropathy. Diabetes 2002; 51: 2612-2618.
- 10. Penfold M, Armati PJ, Cunningham AL. Axonal transport of herpes simplex virions to epidermal cells. Evidence for a specialised mode of virus transport and assembly. Proc Nat Acad Sci U S A 1994; 91: 6529-6533.
- 11. Provis JM, Diaz-Araya CM, Dreher B. Ontogeny of the primate fovea: a central issue in retinal development. Prog Neurobiol 1998; 54: 549-580.
- 12. Chu Y, Hughes S, Chan-Ling T. Astrocyte precursor cell (APCs) and astrocyte differentiation in embryonic human retina: relevance to optic nerve colobomas. FASEB J 2001; 15: 2013-2015.
- 13. Si Z, Tuch BE, Walsh DA. Development of human fetal pancreas after transplantation into SCID mice. Cells Tissues Organs 2001; 168: 147-157.
- 14. Slobedman B, Mocarski ES. Quantitative analysis of latent human cytomegalovirus. J Virol 1999; 73: 4806-4812.
- 15. NHMRC Statement on human experimentation and supplementary notes, 1992. Supplementary note 5: The human fetus and the use of human fetal tissue. Canberra: NHMRC, 1992: 16-18.
- 16. Australian Health Ethics Committee. Ethical guidelines on the use of reproductive technology in clinical practice and research. Draft for public consultation February 2003. 18: Research on human fetuses and fetal tissues: 43-44. Available at: www.health.gov.au/nhmrc/issues/pdfcover/repro.htm (accessed Oct 2003).
- 17. Human ethics (University of Sydney). Sample 1: HREC [Human Research Ethics Committee] Approved Subject Information Statement and Consent Form for research involving the use of human fetal tissue in medical research. Patient information document. Use of human fetal tissue for medical research. Available at: www.usyd.edu.au/ethics/human/sample/dloads/Sample_1.rtf (accessed Oct 2003).
- 18. Dekel B, Burakova T, Arditti FD, et al. Human and porcine early kidney precursors as a new source for transplantation. Nature Med 2003; 9: 53-60.
- 19. Casting M, Peault B, Basmaciogullari A, et al. Blood glucose normalization upon transplantation of human embryonic pancreas into beta-cell-deficient SCID mice. Diabetologia 2001; 44: 2066-2076.
Publication of your online response is subject to the Medical Journal of Australia's editorial discretion. You will be notified by email within five working days should your response be accepted.