CARSON CITY — Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford is asking the Trump administration to ease restrictions on the research of human fetal tissue in hopes that it could help scientists as they search for a treatment for the new coronavirus.
The Washington Post reported last week that a senior scientist at the federal government’s National Institutes of Health has recently pushed for officials to reverse a policy put in place last year that bans NIH scientists from conducting any research involving fetal tissue.
That scientist, immunologist Kim Hasenkrug, wants to test possible treatments for the new coronavirus on mice implanted with human lung tissue by University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, researchers. In their findings published last fall, the UNC scientists noted that the mice with humanized lungs could be infected with the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus, or MERS, which comes from the larger virus family that also includes the new COVID-19 virus.
No vaccine or treatment has been developed for COVID-19 yet.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Nevada reached 420, as of Thursday morning, including 10 deaths. Nationwide, there have been more than 79,000 cases and more than 1,100 people have died from the virus that the World Health Organization has deemed a pandemic.
Ford and 14 other attorneys general sent a letter to President Donald Trump, U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar and NIH Director Francis Collins asking for the ban on fetal tissue research to be lifted.
“Allowing our nation’s scientists to use fetal tissue can help accelerate vaccine development to combat COVID-19 and help us study the impact to pregnant women and children,” the letter said.
In addition to Ford, attorneys general who signed onto the letter included those from California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.
“As our state and country faces an unprecedented crisis, now is not the time for politics,” Ford said in a statement Thursday. “If we’re going to overcome this pandemic as a nation, then we need to utilize all the tools in our toolbox, including allowing our scientists develop a vaccine and treatment for COVID-19.”