University fights restrictive law on fetal tissue research

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Science  29 Mar 2019:
Vol. 363, Issue 6434, pp. 1376
DOI: 10.1126/science.363.6434.1376

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A three-judge panel of the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this month overturned a lower court decision that an Indiana law criminalizing much fetal tissue research is unconstitutionally vague. The 14 March decision means research using fetal tissue from elective abortions is one step closer to being a felony in the Hoosier State. But this week, Indiana University in Bloomington, which sued to stop the 2016 law from going into effect, is asking the full, 11-member court to rehear the case and to consider that the law could criminalize even studies using cell lines derived from aborted fetuses decades ago. The full court is not compelled to accept the case; if it doesn't, or if it upholds the law, the university may be forced to ask state judges on a case-by-case basis whether research projects are illegal. One lab would be affected either way: Plaintiff Debomoy Lahiri uses fetal brain cells to study the mechanism of Alzheimer's disease and possible treatments. If the law prevails, the results for his work will be "devastating," he says.