A successful public records request by the Washington Free Beacon revealed Thursday the National Institutes of Health has been procuring intact human fetal brains for researchers, often paying as much as $1,080 per specimen.
Businesses sometimes provided researchers at the University of Connecticut with two brains per month, the website reported. One such business, the California-based StemExpress, recently cut ties with Planned Parenthood after a series of undercover videos released by the Center for Medical Progress.
Documents obtained by the website show NIH spent $10,161.73 on fetal brain tissue for a project started in 2012. Two second trimester brains from Advanced Bioscience Resources Inc. were also purchased at a cost of over $300.
“We could defiantly [sic] provide you with fetal brain specimens,” StemExpress CEO and founder Cate Dyer said to UConn neuroscientist Dr. Nada Zecevic in an internal email from July 2010, the website reported. A fee for “Fetal Cadaverous Procurement” – $180 for a second trimester specimen, $390 for first trimester, and $890 for a complete “product of conception” – was included.
Dyer sent Zecevic another email four days later, informing her an “18wk Brain Specimen is coming via FedEx,” before adding, “We were able to oxygenate the media, but are all very anxious to hear your feedback!” the Free Beacon reported.
The website reached out to both the National Institutes of Health and UConn for its story. Each defended Zecevic’s research into psychiatric disorders.
“For more than two decades, Neuroscientist Dr. Nada Zecevic has studied the development of the human central nervous system—including the brain,” Lauren Woods, a spokesperson for UConn Health, told the Free Beacon. “At times for her NIH-sponsored research work, she has purchased and repurposed in limited quantities tissue samples of aborted fetuses to conduct her advanced research gaining critically needed insights about how the human brain first develops, its cellular inner-workings, and the foundation of human brain function.”
NIH spokesperson Renate Myles told reporter Elizabeth Harrington that such tissue is, “a critical resource for researchers studying retinal degeneration, pregnancy loss, human development disorders such Down syndrome, and early brain development, with relevance to autism and schizophrenia.”