Let’s face it right away: there is no scandal. The experimental monoclonal antibody therapy for Covid-19 administered to Donald Trump during his hospitalization did not use aborted fetuses . Or rather, more no than yes. Let’s see what it means.
Immortalized cell lines
As Alexandra Bowie of Regeneron, the company that developed the experimental anti-Covid treatment, explains, the monoclonal antibodies infused to President Trump to help him get rid of the Sars-Cov-2 infection are being developed – like so many other medical devices. already in use – thanks to immortalized cell lines .
Immortalized cells are a very important tool for biomedical research because they constitute stable lines , which multiply in the laboratory and which allow laboratories around the world to carry out standardized , comparable and replicable experiments by other researchers. Their use also makes it possible to reduce animal experimentation .
In particular, the monoclonal antibodies of Regeneron are produced by Cho cells (Chinese Hamster Ovary Cells, cells of the hamster ovary) and tested on Hek 293T cells . The latter, in fact, are of human derivation . Hek stands for Human Embryonic Kidney and recalls the origin of this immortalized cell line, isolated in the 1970s from the kidney tissue of a legally aborted fetus . Since then, however, the Heks have undergone modifications, are different from the originals , and have only lived and multiplied in the laboratory for so long that they are not considered abortive tissue.
The ignorant hypocrisy of the White House
What is the problem then? The problem is that the United States is in full electoral campaign , and everything can become a weapon against the two contenders for the presidency.
What Mit Technology Review points out is the Trump administration ‘s hypocrisy (probably stemming from simple ignorance) towards biomedical research that asks for access to material derived from aborted embryos and fetuses for the benefit of health: to grant funds for this type of research is not talked about (the Trump administration has always sided against cutting or denying funding), but no one , neither Trump’s pro-life supporters nor Trump himself, has objected to anything if precisely the fruits of that kind of research likely helped save the president’s life .
And, perhaps, if given the opportunity to access embryonic and fetal material, other great benefits could derive .
In practice, in the global battle against the coronavirus, the fact remains that the experimental therapy based on monoclonal antibodies proposed by Regeneron does indeed seem effective and safe , and that the company is ready for distribution on a larger scale . And in fact, as stated on its website, Regeneron has just asked the Food and Drug Administration of the United States’ use of emergency authorization : if it were granted, there is an agreement with the federal government that would distribute and provide the drug at no cost.