Report provides references indicating that HEK293 cells were derived from an aborted fetus – The Niche

The following recent report provides references indicating that HEK293 cells were derived from an aborted fetus:

Sander Lee, T., Feeney, M.B., Schmainda, K. M., Sherley, J. L., and Prentice, D. A. (2020) “Human Fetal Tissue from Elective Abortions in Research and Medicine: Science, Ethics, and Law.” Issues in Law & Med 35, 3-61.

Footnote 81 in the article provides the following link:

This link provides a 2001 US-FDA Meeting Transcript of the FDA-CBER Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee. It contains the testimony of scientist Alex J. van der Eb, Ph.D., who participated in the development of HEK293 cells. On page 81 of the transcript, when describing the derivation of HEK293 cells, which were a focus of the committee meeting, Dr. van der Eb states:

“So the kidney material, the fetal kidney material was as follows. The kidney of the fetus was, with an unknown family history, was obtained in 1972 probably. The precise date is not known anymore. The fetus, as far as I can remember was completely normal. Nothing was wrong. The reasons for the abortion were unknown to me. I probably knew it at that time, but it got lost, all this information.”


Explainer on 293 or HEK cells and their use in COVID vaccines – The Niche

What’s the deal with 293 cells and COVID-19 vaccine production?

There has been a lot of confusion and even misinformation about 293 cells out there related to the pandemic.

Different types of 293 cells have been used in research on COVID-19 vaccines by different manufacturers, but there are no cells in the actual vaccines. Some have gotten that wrong.

Also, 293s are not stem cells and, more specifically, are quite different from human embryonic stem cells. This has also often been an area of confusion.

What about at the ethical or moral level? I personally see no problem in vaccine research and production using 293 or other human cells.

The uncertainty over the origin of the fetus used to make 293 cells leaves things a little fuzzy in that regard, but I’d said it also makes it harder to somehow condemn 293 cells as immoral to use in research, if that’s one’s agenda.