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Ganogen’s Aborted Human Fetal Kidneys and Hearts Living in Rats and Some Ethical Questions

August 13, AD2015

baby, family, nfp, prolife, pro-life

Below is a 3D ultrasound of an unborn child at about 18 weeks gestation, which is 20 weeks pregnant by LMP date. Emotions are not bad things. Watch the whole minute and a half, and don’t forget.

In this next video, you will see first a kidney from an aborted child about the same age as the one above functioning and growing inside a rat. It was transplanted by scientists hoping to grow enough organs someday to end the donor shortage. At the end of the video you will see a heart from an aborted child surgically transplanted into a rat.

The company is called Ganogen, a company in Redwood City, CA co-founded by two medical students at Duke University, Eugene Gu and Nick Chang. Chang is also a law student at Stanford. A third co-founder, Jay Gu, is a biology graduate from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Their goal is to save lives by providing organs for transplants to the thousands of patients on the transplant waiting lists including human babies with severe or fatal in utero diseases. That is, they are trying to grow the organs from unwanted and healthy aborted babies to transplant into wanted but unhealthy babies. That is the truth of things.

They also want to provide organs for adult patients by growing the organs from the aborted fetus first in rats and then in pigs until they reach the human adult size for transplantation. They are in the beginning stages of their research and far from actually producing the organ bank they envision, so they need funding. Furthermore, these human organs transplanted into rats can possibly serve as “in vivo” (within the living) hosts for drug tests on human organs.

Real Human Organs are Not Artificial

There has been much outcry at the use of fetal organs for transplant, but do a mental transplant, if you will, and peer out at the world from the Ganogen mindset. Try to see the issue through their eyes. These three (and many more like them) believe they have found an immeasurably profound resource in aborted fetuses for experimentation and utility. In their own words, “Real human organs are not artificial.” (They know the human fetus is truly human. You do not have to be a medical student to grasp the obvious.)

These aborted fetuses are a profound resource because they are not just cells grown in petri dishes. The kidneys and hearts dissected from fetuses are living human organs functioning in a living human subject, a feat no scientist has ever remotely been able to simulate or synthesize in any clump of atoms or molecules. Biologists are well aware that they have not begun to discover all the mysteries of life. As the three young men of Ganogen acknowledged, “There are hundreds if not thousands of proteins and cytokines yet to be discovered, not to mention the highly intricate communication and interplay between the millions of cells within a human organ.”

So to them, it is not only ethical to use these aborted children’s bodies, it would be unethical not to use them and to waste them instead. The ability to conduct in vivo human experiments on kidneys, hearts, or livers and lungs can, in their words, “recapitulate biological processes that no current technology can emulate.”

For them, the ethical question is simple and settled. Because abortion is legal, abortion is ethical. Because abortion is ethical, using the bodies of the aborted children to save the lives of other children is ethical, even responsible, even laudable. They have tapped into a resource (of human lives that do not matter) and are using that resource to save lives (that do matter). Again, that is the truth of things in plain words.

Ganogen’s Scientific Paper on Transplantation

Now look at their science. Earlier this year, the group published a research paper in the American Journal of Transplantation, “Arterial Flow Regulator Enables Transplantation and Growth of Human Fetal Kidneys in Rats.” They presented their novel method for transplanting human fetal kidneys into adult rats. The trick is to control blood flow. The adult rat’s body pumps the blood too much for the more delicate human fetal kidney (and heart). A transplant would not work because the rat’s blood flow would cause the human organ to hemorrhage. So they developed an “arterial flow regulator” (AFR), a cuff that can be adjusted to control the blood flow into the human organ. Not only did they successfully transplant the human fetal kidneys, the kidneys continued to function and grow in size within the living rat’s body.

It is instructive to read the “Methods” section:

We obtained 55 fully intact human fetal kidneys gestational age 17–18 weeks (StemExpress, Placerville, CA). All human kidneys were deidentified, with patient consent and Institutional Review Board approval obtained by StemExpress. Every experiment involving human fetal tissues was in accordance with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975 and reviewed by Ganogen’s Human Fetal Transplantation Research Ethics Committee consisting of two board-certified transplant surgeons at separate academic centers, two members of the general public not affiliated with the institution and one board-certified general clinician.

First, note that the source is the company, StemExpress, that has been in the news lately because the Center for Medical Progress published videos showing that 1) the company appears to negotiate prices for intact fetuses and specific organs depending on what the researcher wants, and 2) according to a former procurement technician, there is allegedly a disregard for the mother’s consent for the aborted child’s body to be used in scientific experimentation. However, the paper states that “all human kidneys” were obtained with “patient consent,” so we must take that as it is, while suspecting the company may not, in fact, act consistently in this way.

Second, note the term “Institutional Review Board” (IRB) approval. This is a standard in research involving human subjects under the aegis of the American Public University System. An Institutional Review Board (IRB) is a “committee established to review and approve research involving human subjects.” The purpose is to ensure the research is conducted in accordance with all federal, institutional, and ethical guidelines.

The people making the ethical decisions are, of course, of the same mindset as the researchers. If abortion is legal, abortion is ethical and the use of fetal tissues and organs for research is laudable. Ganogen went a step further and had its own Human Fetal Transplantation Research Ethics Committee. But make no mistake: These committees are not questioning the ethics of using aborted children as scientific human subjects. That is a given and already a widely accepted practice.

Third, note that no detail is given about how the organs got from the abortion clinic to the research lab. Presumably the researchers are removed from the abortion, but how can they can be so removed as to have no influence on the abortion at all? In organ transplants from dead donors, it is common knowledge that organs must be removed from the donor as quickly as possible after the determination of death. That is why potential donors must make decisions and complete paperwork beforehand. If too much time passes after death, the organs are not usable because they begin to deteriorate from lack of blood supply (known as ischemia). It is also common knowledge that kidney transplants from a living donor are more successful than from a dead donor. It is also common knowledge that most deceased organ donors are brain dead and therefore still attached to life support so their hearts keep pumping blood to their organs.

Ethical Questions from Those of Us Not on the IRB

Eugene Gu hosted a Reddit AMA (ask me anything) session after the publication of his paper. When asked how long the fetus is dead before the organs get to the lab, Gu answered: “We keep the cold ischemia time to under 1 hour. We use a courier that delivers the organ as quickly as possible on ice and in cardioplegic solution such as Custodiol.” It seems some coordination between abortion clinic and researcher must occur. It would not be unreasonable to wonder whether StemExpress ever delivered still-living fetuses with still-functioning kidneys or still-beating hearts to Eugene Gu’s laboratory.

Ethically—if we remain in the mindset of these researchers and review boards—why would they not desire delivery of live fetuses? Why not conduct a live transplant? If the child is already going to die by abortion and if the science has already been determined to be so vital as to need the child’s organs for experimentation, then why not deliver the organs in the best condition possible to ensure the likelihood of a successful outcome? Why not deliver the fetus alive in the abortion clinic and keep the baby alive in transport until its organs are dissected in the lab to be transplanted into the rat? Anything less would be—to follow their reasoning to its logical conclusion—an irresponsible waste of a life-saving specimen.

Those of us not privy to the Institutional Review Board or to Ganogen’s own Human Fetal Transplantation Research Ethics Committee have every right to ask that question of these researchers. Why do you not use live fetuses? Is the answer that using live fetuses is illegal? Well, that answer begs a bigger question, one looming over this entire debate about abortion and human life, one the American public should demand an answer to right now. Why is the use of live human fetuses for scientific experimentation illegal if the ethics of the American Public University System are sound?

Eugene Gu assures us, “Human fetal tissues have become such an integral part of science and industry both historically and currently that I do not believe there will be any barrier to using them in the future no matter which administration is in power.”

He and his group also assure their potential sponsors that they receive no taxpayer funding from the federal or local government funds for their research. The group’s work is instead subsidized by family, friends, and small investors, which they believe makes their work more palatable. To quote: “We feel that our research is more palatable than all the other researchers who use taxpayer money to fund their research involving aborted human fetal tissues, which is the vast majority of major biomedical research labs.” It is as if they know most of us do not actually view the truth of things through their eyes. It is as if they know what we know—that it is profoundly wrong to kill unwanted children in the first place.

Editorial Note:  Dr. Stacy A. Trasancos, PhD is solely responsible for the accuracy of the facts in this essay. If you believe anything is in error based upon her reading of the publicly available literature, please email her here. Dr. Trasancos is available for interviews.

 

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

Stacy Trasancos has a PhD in Chemistry from Penn State University and a MA in Dogmatic Theology from Holy Apostles College and Seminary, is a chemistry and physics instructor for Kolbe Academy, adjunct professor at Holy Apostles, and author of Science Was Born of Christianity: The Teaching of Fr. Stanley L. Jaki. Most of her time is devoted to raising her youngest five children, and worrying about her two oldest, with her husband in a 100-year old restored mountain lodge in the Adirondack mountains. Interact with her on Facebook or Twitter. Visit her website.

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  • Howard

    According to legend, a vampire has exceptional strength, beauty, and unending “life”, the price being his soul and the deaths of many innocents. Sound familiar?

  • Patti Maguire Armstrong

    Excellent! Thanks for breaking it down and exposing things we wish were not true but keeps getting excused.