- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A San Francisco cosmetics company has ignited an outcry among pro-lifers for including an unexpected ingredient in its anti-aging creams: skin-cell proteins from an aborted fetus.

Children of God for Life, a watchdog group that monitors the use of fetal material in medical products, called last week for a boycott of all treatments manufactured by Neocutis Inc., which acknowledges that the key ingredient in its product line was developed from an aborted boy.

“There’s just no excuse for using aborted babies in skin-care products,” said Debi Vinnedge, executive director of Children of God for Life, a 10-year-old organization based in Murfreesboro, Tenn. “The reaction, the shock and anger I’ve seen is incredible.”

In a statement released Friday, in response to a wave of condemnation from pro-life and religious blogs, Neocutis defended the use of its trademarked ingredient, Processed Skin Cell Proteins, or PSP, arguing that the fetal cell line was harvested in a responsible, ethical manner for use in treating severe dermatological injuries.

The company compared its situation to that of researchers who used fetal kidney cells to develop the polio vaccine.

“Our view - which is shared by most medical professionals and patients - is that the limited, prudent and responsible use of donated fetal skin tissue can continue to ease suffering, speed healing, save lives and improve the well-being of many patients around the globe,” said the statement.

The ingredient was developed at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland from proteins in the skin tissue of a 14-week-old male baby electively aborted at the university’s hospital and donated to the Swiss university. The abortion was deemed medically necessary because the baby could not survive to term, according to Neocutis.

The fetal skin cell line was taken from a piece of skin the size of a postage stamp and donated voluntarily by the parents for medical research. The donation was approved by the hospital’s medical ethics committee and in accordance with Swiss laws, said the Neocutis statement.

Neocutis also insisted that the one donation would be sufficient for the manufacture of its products. Critics argue that it’s impossible to know how long the cell line will last, but Neocutis states on its Web site that “no additional fetal biopsies will ever be required.”

“We feel we are in complete compliance with the laws of God and the laws of man,” Neocutis President Mark J. Lemko said in an e-mail response to critics, which was posted on the Children of God for Life Web site.

Ms. Vinnedge accused the company of playing up PSP’s medical applications in order to draw attention from its cosmetic uses. Although the company developed PSP for the treatment of skin ulcers, burns and scarring, Neocutis soon recognized the ingredient’s value in restoring aging skin.

Neocutis cosmetic products using the cell line include Bio-Restorative Skin Cream, Bio-Gel Bio-Restorative Hydrogel, Lumiere Bio-Restorative Eye Cream and Bio-Restorative Serum with PSP Intensive Spot Treatment. In terms of price, they’re not exactly comparable to Maybelline: A 1-ounce bottle of Journee Bio-Restorative Day Cream costs $120.

Judie Brown, president of American Life League, said that although use of aborted fetal parts is indefensible for any purpose, Neocutis’ use for a product as trivial as an anti-aging cream speaks uniquely to current trends and the desire for eternal youth.

“What’s new about this is our cultural attitude toward beautification and our sense of self … and living forever,” she said.

Ms. Vinnedge said she would object to the use of the fetal cell lines no matter what their use, medical or cosmetic, arguing that mature cells are just as effective. Indeed, other companies make high-end skin creams using proteins derived from postnatal placentas, which Mrs. Brown called completely morally acceptable to pro-lifers.

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