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It’s ok! There won’t be any more babies aborted for vaccines…will there?

Do fetal tissue cell lines last forever or will they need to be replaced?

By Christian Hacking & Debbie Mountford

Ever since CBR UK republished 12 Faulty Assumptions about Fetal Tissue cell lines in March of 2021, I have received a steady stream of emails challenging one particular assumption: “No extra abortions are necessary” (No.9). 

It fundamentally boils down to the question of whether the cell lines used in the covid vaccine like HEK293 are “immortal” or in fact will need to be replaced over the coming decades, thus fueling the need for more babies to be harvested (some while still alive), to generate new cell lines. HEK293 was created from the kidney cells of a 12 -13 week old baby girl, whom we have named Johanna. You can read more about the sickening brutality of how these cells are harvested from babies like Johanna in my related piece: What the HEK?! 

My search for an answer has taken me far and wide and is not as clear cut as I would like, but I hope this article will at least inch the conversation forward. 

For those of you unlikely to exercise your finger by scrolling to the bottom, I have stuck a summary of my verdict at the top, and then elaborate on how I got there underneath.

My verdict

Finite cell lines like WI-38 (Ellie) and MRC-5 (David) - used in smallpox, rabies, hepatitis, chicken pox and MMR) - do not last forever and are already being replaced. Other “continuous” cell lines like HEK293 (Johanna) and PER.C6 (Jordan), technically don’t need to be replaced, yet may find themselves squeezed out of the market by more specialised and perfected cell lines in the future, unless consumer habits change.

Conceptualising the process

Above you can see a helpful diagram found in Medicine and Law, Spring 2020, which expresses the various paths which harvested cells from healthy, unborn babies, find themselves on. It includes one of three routes: 1) primary cell culture, 2) non-immortal cell strains, and finally 3) immortalised cell strains. 

The shelf life of each of these three products varies hugely, ranging from a few days to 50+ years in the case of continuous or immortalised cell lines. Products 2 and 3 have been used historically in some vaccines, either as a medium to grow an attenuated virus in, or as a means of testing the vaccine once produced. They are also used to test many common drugs today, though this testing process is not always necessary. In fact, according to the founder of Sound Choice Pharmaceutical Institute, Dr Theresa Deisher, adult animal cell lines can actually be better if modelled correctly.    

When fetal cell lines are not being used, they are normally frozen in liquid nitrogen and stored. This stops the metabolism of the cells and is the reason why non-immortal cell lines like WI-38 are still in use some 60 years after they were first made. 

The difference between non immortal cell strains and immortalised cell strains, is the length of time they can grow once unthawed before experiencing cell death, also known as senescence. As you can see from the diagram below, finite cell lines stop dividing or die after around 14 weeks, whereas continuous cell lines experience steady growth after that time.

The length of the cell line's life can also be calculated by the number of times the cells divide, known as doubling. In the 1960’s, the creator of the WI-38 cell lines used in the Mumps, Measles and Rubella vaccine (MMR) - Leonard Hayflick - proved that normal cells in vitro could only divide between 40-60 times. This became known as the Hayflick limit. Attempts to grow normal cell lines beyond this limit were described by him as ’futile’. 

Immortal cell strains on the other hand are not hindered by this limit. This is due to spontaneous or induced changes to their DNA structure.  As seen on the diagram, once unthawed, they continue to replicate past 100 weeks without issue. The three most common examples of these cell lines are Hela (the cells taken from the body of Henrietta Lack’s without consent), HEK293 (Johanna) and PER.C.6 (18 week old Jordan). This has given rise to the  “immortal” title and the understandable assumption that they won’t need to be replaced.

In a paper published in 2000 Leonard Hayflick breaks the two types of cells down as follows:

While Hayflick makes no mention of HEK293 in his paper (focusing instead on Hela) it is noteworthy that HEK293 fits into the Heteroploid category. Though it is not known as a cancer cell, they are understood by some as being “tumorigenic” - typically possessing 64 chromosomes instead of the standard 46 - and as explored above, express indefinite growth.

Non-starters and contested facts

While the term immortality may be an easy handle for describing cells that replicate indefinitely, it has been argued - by none other than Leonard Hayflick - that terms like “mortality” and immortality”, blur the distinction between types of cells due to “enormous variations in understanding” in how these words are interpreted legally, philosophically and biologically. Yet having outlined the issues he still concedes that immortality defined as “the survival of a replicating population…does have limited use in understanding the fundamental difference between normal and cancerous cells.”

Another contested feature is what happens to the cells as they get older. It is an established fact that the more they multiply the more their genetics (genotype) and behaviour (phenotype) change. Take for example this extract from a European Collection and Authenticating Cell Cultures (ECACC)  fact sheet:

Continuous lines have an unlimited lifespan. Although cells may continue to proliferate for an extended period, over time their phenotype and genotype can change. Finite cell lines may lose their specialised phenotype and continuous cell lines may develop considerable genetic instability and resultant phenotypic heterogeneity.”

The implications of this are also contested. A 2008 study suggests that a careful consideration of the passage number of the cells (i.e the number of times the culture has been sub cultured, harvested and reseeded into multiple ‘daughter’ cell culture flasks) should affect the usability of the cells past a certain age, “especially for vaccine production”. Yet, having checked these findings with pro-life scientists, I discovered this thesis is by no means universal and may be dependent on what strain of HEK293 cells they use and how the cells were cultured1. Others suggest that the whole argument of tumorigenicity is a non-starter because, as explored above, the original HEK293 - by nature of it being transected with the Adeno 5 Virus allowing it to multiply indefinitely - is already tumorigenic to begin with. 

The long and short of this is that, unlike finite cell lines, the age of “immortalised cell strains” (while not entirely straightforward) is not a clear indication of their longevity or need of replacement. In order to address this, other avenues will need to be explored.

Replacement of finite lines

It is an established fact that more unborn babies were killed and harvested in order to replace depleting stock of “finite” cell lines in the past, and good reason why the same will happen for immortal cell lines. 

The British made MRC 5, taken from the lungs of ‘David’ (the name we have given the 14-week old male baby harvested in 1970 after being removed from his “psychiatric” 27 year old mother) and was developed specifically because Jacobs et al. saw the “value” in the WI-38 (Ellie) cell line made in 1962. The same can be said of IMR-90 and IMR-91, made in 1977 and 1982, out of 16-week old ‘Candice’ and 12 week old ‘Brad’. The paper accompanying its creation specifically states it was made: 

“as a replacement for WI-38 (1, 2) as the NIH stock of low-passage WI-38 cells has become relatively limited for purposes other than vaccine manufacture.”

According to Dr. Christine Beiswanger (p5), an associate professor who works at Coriell Institute:

“The cell line developed at Coriell, identified as IMR-90 was the first of several lines planned in support of NIA research programs…the goal of establishing this cell line was a replacement for WI-38 in vaccine production”

This has continued to this day with the creation of Walvax 2 in 2015 (from a baby we have named Bo), created after 9 “waterbag” vivisections with the specific intention to  “...develop a completely new HDCS [Human Diploid Cell Strain] of Chinese origin that could be used in manufacturing viral vaccines”. In other words, the Chinese wanted their own cell line so they weren’t dependent on depleting stocks of WI-38 (Ellie) and MRC-5 (David).

Replacement of "immortal lines"?

Some argue that because HEK293 and PER.C6 are “immortal” (as explored above) they won’t need to be replaced in the same way, yet two pieces of evidence suggest otherwise.  One reason is internal and one external. 

Internal issues

Firstly, HEK293 - while being a robust and popular choice for vaccine producers - has serious limitations. In 1997, some 30 years after he made the cell line, Dr Frank Graham highlighted the greatest issue with the cell line in this paper. In summary, there is a small risk the cell line will infect the host with the large adenovirus (around 4500 base pairs) used to create it. Other issues include substantial “differences in glycosylation pattern in proteins between HEK 293 cells and human plasma” limiting the use of the cell line. This meant that there was “scientific need to create reproducible and well-defined human cell lines that are derived without viral elements”.2

It was these limitations in mind that the PER.C6 cell line was created in 1995, from the eye of an aborted 18-week old baby (Jordan). The PER.C6 cell line is patented by Crucell and licensed by more than 75 companies.  

What is surprising and perhaps the biggest defeater to the arguments I present in this article, is that despite the existence of the perfected PER.C6 cell line, vaccine manufacturers in the creation of the latest COVID experimental vaccine, are still choosing to use HEK293 cells despite its imperfections. This may be due to the robust nature of the cells, or due to the fact that so much previous research has been conducted with these cells, that vaccine producers are compelled to use the same materials in order to build off previous findings, but these are mere speculations. What is clear is that while this cell line is by no means out of fashion, not everyone is content with existing “immortal cell lines”

External issues - the lust for ever more specific immortal cell lines

A second, perhaps larger consideration in working out whether HEK293 and other cell lines like it, will be replaced and more babies organs required, is found when assessing the development of new “continuous cell lines” since PER.C6 was created in 1995.  

The answer is there have been quite a few. In 2012 and 2017 a team of researchers in Japan developed “immortalised cells” from an unborn baby's brain, using cells “derived from human fetal cortical tissue”. The latter used the brain of a 21-week old baby boy which they purchased from a lab in San Diego, USA. Another European collaboration did something similar in 2007 using the harvested brains of 8-9 week old fetuses sourced from a Swedish hospitalafter informed consent of the women seeking abortion and in accordance with EU directives”. In 2009 a group (this time in Holland), published a paper detailing the use of at least 12 unborn babies between 14-18 weeks gestation, to develop an “immortalised human fetal liver cell line”. 

One scientist I spoke to attributed this explosion of new “continuous cell lines” to the Human Embryonic Stem Cell Registry hESCR set up in the States by Obama and the ex head of the Nation Institute of Health, and professing Christian, Francis Collins. 

Another manifestation of this closer to home is the  Human Pluripotent Stem Cell Registry (hpSCR) that has long lists of new stem cell lines created in the UK, with a considerable number coming from embryos and fetuses

It would appear that researchers, presumably in a race to eliminate the West’s ‘worst’ illnesses, appear to only want to create more perfected forms, and are perfectly willing to exploit the bodies of unwanted unborn babies in embryonic or fetal form in order to do so.  

As the following 1994 publication makes clear, this has been going on for decades, with a clear preference towards unborn babies over other alternatives:

A combination of characteristics renders fetal tissue uniquely valuable for such transplantation, as well as for basic research, the development of vaccines, and a range of other applications. Although substitutes for human fetal tissue are being actively sought, for many of these applications there are at present no satisfactory alternatives.”

The words of Hans Jonas come to mind:

“If nothing succeeds like success, nothing also entraps like success”3

Money and regulation

Another clear driving factor at play is the lucrative and deregulated nature of human tissue cell lines versus primary human baby tissue and organs. As the Spring 2020 Issues in Law and Medicine paper points out.

If a company uses [Human Fetal Product] HFT to create a processed product, such as isolated stem cells or continuous cell lines, there are currently no restrictions on selling these processed human materials for a profit..... So companies like these are making a significant downstream profit on products derived from HFT from elective abortions. Thus, a commercial market exists for the supply and demand of HFT and their processed products, and abortion clinics are the beginning of the supply chain.”

From my research, vials of these cell lines can fetch a high price on the market selling at between £350 to £6,715 

Considering the deficiencies of the HEK293 cell line and with more specified continuous cell lines coming through the ranks at an astounding rate, how likely do we think it is that biotech companies will stick to old products when new ones can be sold at high prices with little restrictions applied? 

Not only is it theoretically unlikely that biotech companies will rest content with their current HEK stores, but evidently untrue. In 2002, Merck (listed above) and 50 other pharmaceutical companies took the trouble to purchase the buying rights of a new fetal cell line that isn’t even FDA approved, nor used in any other vaccine application4. This suggests there exists a far bigger appetite for unborn baby organs than anyone likes to admit5.

The character of Big Pharma and an open opportunity

The final consideration we need to insert into our calculations on whether immortal cell lines will be replaced, is the character of the institutions that benefit from them. 

There is no denying the positive impact that large Pharmaceutical industries have had on world health. This includes the efforts that have been made in some quarters to produce ethically sourced vaccines that don’t depend on abortion products. Two prime examples in this field being the decision by Sanofil and GlaxoSmithKline to develop their polio and shingles vaccines, in animal sourced cell lines instead of MRC-5 in 2020. 

Yet there is also no denying the lack of transparency and accountability that also often accompanies these companies. 

A nuanced statement from the National Catholic Bioethics Centre, goes further than most ethical considerations around the covid vaccine by pointing out that it took 40 years into the roll out of childhood vaccines for evidence to emerge that a number of childhood vaccines were being manufactured using human diploid cell lines obtained from elective abortions”. 

Was this an accident or was someone suppressing the truth? 

When we consider the broader track record of large pharmaceutical companies, the answer becomes clear. The very same pharmaceutical companies who own the most lucrative covid jab contracts have been found to lie, bribe and deceive on multiple occasions, not just in the distant past but right up to the present day6. The arrival of the covid jab should have only added to our suspicions with clear evidence of conventional treatments being unfairly black balled, effectiveness being overstated, harm being understated7 and most recently - through the brave whistle blowing of Melissa Strickler - the link between the Pfizer jab and aborted baby cell lines being deliberately minimised.

While this is not a fair reflection of many earnest people who work in this sector, there is no denying that groups of individuals within these companies have routinely sought to minimise critical information or worse still, hide it from public view.

This presents both a challenge and an opportunity for vaccine producers. With some nations insisting on mandatory vaccines for health care workers, and with this sector being stuffed full of religious minority groups, the market for an ethically derived covid vaccine has never been bigger.
Yet despite CBR UK’s efforts over the last few years to make policy makers aware of the need of an ethically derived vaccine, our pleas have fallen largely on deaf ears. Culminating when the UK Government cancelled its order of the only available ethical vaccine. Perhaps more disheartening still has been the response from many well meaning Christians who - rather than sacrificially waiting or lobbying for an ethically derived vaccine - have taken and or encouraged the use of the current abortion tainted vaccines, thus adding further consumer approval to the use of unethical cell lines.

This is why we need to be clear in our understanding of these cell lines, how they were created, how they are used and how they may well be replaced.

The bottom line

Tragically the prolific nature of the HEK293 cell line and the 50 year proximity to Johanna’s death, has meant that many individuals and moral institutions, instead of resisting it, have accepted and endorsed it. 

The bottom line however, (that I hope I have persuaded you of), is that it is beyond doubt that more unborn babies will be harvested in order to make new “finite cell lines”. There is also a distinct possibility that more “continuous cell lines” will be made from harvested fetuses. Potentially with a view of vaccine manufacture (though this is hard to substantiate), but certainly in regard to the treatment of other conditions like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson's etc. 

Most sharply, comforting ourselves with the naive assumption that “It’s OK” because no more babies are in line to die for their organs or our medicines (potentially including future vaccines), only perpetuates the use of these immortal cell lines across medicine and research. Ultimately, it is a betrayal of the very ones we need to protect, and should in my opinion be resisted as strongly as we should the daily genocide of the unborn.



1. Stepanenko and Dmitrenko in 2015 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.gene.2015.05.065 note the results of Shen et al. in 2008, but point out that those results don’t align with some other studies on tumorigenic potential.  They note that there is significant heterogeneity in potential tumorigenicity of different stocks and sources of HEK293. Note they also say that in their view, even the original HEK293 is tumorigenic. 

2. Cited from Issues in Medicine and Law, Spring 2020, p25. Available here.

3. Jona, H. (1972) ‘Philosophical reflection on experimenting with human subjects’. In Experimentation with Human Subjects (Ed. P.A.Frund). Allen & Unwin, London pp.1-31. Referenced in McCullagh. P. (1987) The Fetus as Transplant Donor: Scientific Social and Ethical Perspectives John and Wiley & Sons p137.

4. Cited in Abortion and Vaccines, under section “The Abortions and Intention of Creating Vaccines”.  An excellent resource for anyone wanting to go deeper on this subject.

5. A matter skillfully exposed by the Centre for Medical Progress in 2015, but has not yet been replicated this side of the Atlantic.

6. Johnson and Johnson have lost multiple lawsuits. Pfizer was made to pay the biggest criminal payout in history, their rap sheet is available here. The makers of the Oxford/ AstraZeneca vaccine were sued for fraudulent marketing as recently as 2018.

7. Unsurprisingly it is hard to find evidence on vaccine harm being understated or covered up. However here is a short list of hyperlinks that combined begin to paint the picture of what is going on: FDA buries data on seriously injured child, manipulation of data, Google algorithms found to be carefully curating “covid” searches, or finally how about reading comparative reports of Irish Footballer Roy Butler’s death in mainstream and non mainstream following his Johnsen and Johnsen jab.