As Trump hails Regeneron treatment, his administration tries to block science it used

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“The impact it had was incredible,” he said in a video he tweeted on Thursday.

What he didn’t say is that the treatment was developed using technology that his administration worked for four years to ban.

It has to do with the politics of abortion and the science of using human tissue to test and make drugs. Regeneron’s therapy relied indirectly on tissue taken from an abortion.

Trump’s base, of course, is firmly against the right to abortion, and his administration has moved quickly to reverse many of the Obama-era policies – including policies that advanced scientific research involving human fetal tissue. .

Human embryonic stem cells, made from embryos that are several days old, are particularly involved in fertility clinics. They stayed when couples make extra fertilized eggs and don’t need them. In the past, this tissue was also sometimes taken from abortions.

People against the right to abortion oppose both uses, as does the Trump administration. The US Department of Health and Human Services has stopped the National Institutes of Health to obtain more fetal tissue for research and has put in place a council that has virtually prevented it from funding academic groups that use it.

The federal government cannot prevent private industry from using fetal tissue and Regeneron supports its use.

Although Regeneron did not directly use human fetal cells to make the monoclonal antibody treatment given to Trump, it did use cells derived from an abortion in the Netherlands in 1972 to make its antibody targets – the mimics of the coronavirus spike protein. .

Monoclonal antibodies target specific targets. To fight the coronavirus, they are designed precisely to attack the spike protein used by the virus to attack cells. To make sure their antibodies were working properly, Regeneron had to use lab facsimiles of this advanced protein, and for that they used fetal cells.

Scientists have been using this batch of cells, called the HEK-293 cell line, for almost 50 years for all kinds of experiments. This is one of the reasons why these embryonic stem cells are so valuable. They have a kind of immortality and flexibility that other cells don’t have. This is why scientists are fighting so hard to keep access to this research, despite the efforts of anti-abortion activists.

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“Research using such stem cells allows Regeneron to model complex diseases, test new drug candidates, and may help unlock new scientific knowledge that could ultimately lead to the discovery of new treatments for people with serious illnesses. “, the society said in a press release posted last April.

Fetal tissue has been used to develop vaccines, including vaccines against rabies and rubella, or against German measles. It has been used to develop drugs to treat the AIDS virus and cancer, and is used to study treatments for Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injury, and degenerative diseases such as ALS.

To do its treatments, including its Covid-19 treatments, Regeneron uses another technology that scares some people – genetically engineered mice that have partly human immune systems and which produce human antibodies.

Scientists have made a mouse embryo that is 4% human - the highest level of human cells in an animal to date

The goal is to use mice as efficient factories to produce antibodies that the human body will recognize and not reject.

Regeneron made its monoclonal antibodies by genetically engineering mice to produce human antibodies and injecting them with the coronavirus spike protein. The mice produced thousands of antibodies in response. The company also used antibodies from people who had recovered from coronavirus infections, and then chose two antibodies from the mix that worked best to neutralize the coronavirus.

The company calls the REGN-COV2 mixture at this time. It will get a brand name if it gets emergency use authorization from the United States Food and Drug Administration. The company applied for this Wednesday.

Regeneron is still testing its double antibody cocktail in volunteers – both in people hospitalized with coronavirus and in people at high risk of infection, such as those living with a patient.

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Kehoe Young

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