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CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8 | cbs8.com

Was the antibody cocktail used to treat President Trump developed using human embryonic stem cells?

Social media is buzzing with the claim President Trump, who is pro-life, used an antibody cocktail developed using human embryonic stem cells.

Editor's note Oct 8: Thursday News 8 received further clarification from Regeneron spokesperson, Alexander Bowie. 

She says HEK293T (Human embryonic kidney 293 cells) were used to help evaluate the efficacy of antibodies that ultimately went into the antibody cocktail. 

"These are not stem cells. We did not use human stem cells or human embryonic stem cells in the development of REGN-COV2.

Specifically, HEK293Ts were used to make ‘pseudovirus’ that looks like the Spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and this is used to test our antibodies’ ability to neutralize the virus. HEK293s are considered ‘immortalized’ cells (again, not stem cells) and are a common and widespread tool in research labs. This cell line was originally derived by adenovirus transformation of human embryonic kidney cells in 1977. After this, it was further transformed at Stanford in the ‘80s with SV40 T-antigen (hence the “T”). HEK293T wasn’t used in any other way, and fetal tissue was not used in this research."

The antibody cocktail used to treat President Donald Trump for COVID-19 is getting a lot of attention on social media.

Some users are claiming Regeneron - the company that developed the treatment - used human embryonic stem cells to create it, but is this true?

News 8 reached out to Regeneron for comment. 

"This particular discovery program (regn-cov2) did not involve human stem cells or embryonic stem cells," wrote Regeneron spokesperson Alexandra Bowie in a statement.

So, where did that claim about human embryonic stem cells come from?

It appears to have developed from this statement Regeneron issued back in April 2020 regarding stem cell research:

"As is the case with many other science-focused biotechnology companies, Regeneron uses a wide variety of research tools and technologies to help discover and develop new therapeutics. stem cells are one such tool. the stem cells most commonly used at Regeneron are mouse embryonic stem cells and human blood stem cells. currently, there are limited research efforts employing human-induced pluripotent stem cell lines derived from adult human cells and human embryonic stem cells that are approved for research use by the national institutes of health and created solely through in vitro fertilization."

Credit: Regeneron

According to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, here's what the antibody cocktail used to treat the president is made of:

 "One antibody comes from a human who had recovered from a SARS-COV-2 infection; a B cell that makes the antibody was harvested from the person's blood and the genes for the immune protein isolated and copied. The other antibody is from a mouse, which was engineered to have a human immune system, that had the spike protein injected into it."

Bowie also told News 8 the statement about stem cell research on its website reflects the company's general position on stem cell research, but does not mean human embryonic stem cells were used in creating the antibody cocktail used to treat the president.

Nevertheless, some said the company's position on using stem cells in general contradicts President Trump's pro-life stance and that of Supreme Court Nominee Amy Coney Barrett.

Editors Note: This story was originally posted as a VERIFY report.