GENET archive


5-Animals: Progress seen in animal-to-human organ transplants

                                  PART I
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TITLE:  Progress seen in animal-to-human organ transplants
SOURCE: Reuters
DATE:   7 Sep 2004 

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Progress seen in animal-to-human organ transplants

VIENNA, Sept 7 (Reuters) - Animal-to-human organ transplants could be at
the dawn of a new era thanks to progress in overcoming rejection and the
creation of transgenic pigs, an expert said on Tuesday. Only about 25
percent of critically ill patients in need of a donor heart, kidney or
liver receive the life-saving organs. Many die while waiting for a
transplant. Xenotransplantation, the use of animal organs or tissue, is
considered a possible solution to the worldwide shortage of donor organs.
Professor Ian F.C. McKenzie, Australian president of the International
Xenotransplantation Association (IXA), told a medical conference that
scientists are making progress in overcoming the obstacles in animal-to
human transplants. "We are now at the dawn of a new era," he said. Pigs,
with organs approximately the same size as their human equivalents, are
thought to be the best animals for organ transplants because they breed
quickly and produce big litters. But fears of pig viruses infecting human
cells and problems of organ rejection have been major obstacles. McKenzie
told the week-long meeting of the 20th International Congress of the
Transplantation Society that genetically modified pigs could be a new
avenue to overcome organ rejection. "I would predict that at least six
genes will need to be modified or eliminated in transgenic pigs to allow
for the survival of donor organs," McKenzie said in a statement. "There
are already pregnant pigs that have up to five of the genes that could be
important for carrying out xenotransplantation," he added. Financial
analysts estimate that the total market for xenotransplantation could run
into billions of dollars but early attempts to commercialise the
technology have been held up by problems. McKenzie said the possible
transfer of pig viruses to humans is still an issue, but one which he
believes can be overcome. "We are in the process of solving these
difficulties," he said, adding that a receptor for pig viruses has
already been identified. "This could provide a possibility of blocking
it," he said.

                                  PART II
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TITLE:  Animal rights groups protest at 20% rise in experiments on primates
SOURCE: The Guardian, UK, by Alok Jha,11917,1299526,00.html
DATE:   8 Sep 2004 

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Animal rights groups protest at 20% rise in experiments on primates

The number of scientific experiments carried out on non-human primates
increased last year by 20%, despite a reduction in the number of primates
used in research overall. Animal rights campaigners pointed to the
increase as proof that scientists are not making enough effort to find

The figures were released yesterday by the Home Office. Scientists hit
back at the anti-vivisectionists' claims by pointing to the overall fall
in the use of animals in the last 30 years, despite the vastly increased
levels of medical research being carried out.

The number of experiments on all animals in the UK in 2003 rose to just
over 2.79m, an increase of about 59,000 (2.2%) on 2002. Most of the
procedures - 85% - were carried out on rodents, with most of the rest
using fish (6%) and birds (4%).

Nicky Gordon, the science officer at the British Union for the Abolition
of Vivisection, said: "Non-human primates are our closest relatives and
their capacity to suffer, experience stress and feel pain is clear for
all to see. Subjecting them to medical research and toxicology
experiments which require them to undergo brain surgery and swallow
poisons is abhorrent and should be ended immediately."

Experiments on non-human primates rose from 3,977 in 2002 to 4,799 in
2003, despite a 24% decrease in the number of primates involved.

"This increase is mainly down to neurological research," said Dr Simon
Festing, of the Association of Medical Research Charities. "Because of
the ageing population, we are seeing greater emphasis on research into
diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease."

Penny Hawkins, a scientific officer at the Royal Society for the
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said that the "scientific community has
repeatedly told us that they don't like using non-human primates ... Yet
the statistics here tell a very different story."

The Association of British Pharmaceutical Industries said the increase
needed to be put into context. "While there was an increase of just over
2% in the number of animal procedures for 2003 over the previous year,
the figures have to be set against a backdrop of increased government
funding for biomedical research, as well as a 12.4% jump in the number of
compounds in the pre-clinical research and development pipeline."

Professor Colin Blakemore, chief executive of the Medical Research
Council, said: "The target everyone hopes for is that a time will come
when no animal use will be needed at all. We have a tremendous success
story as far as that is concerned because numbers have fallen by a factor
of two since the 1970s. So if there is a small increase this year then
you have to see this against a background of a 50% fall over the last 30

The overall increase of animal use in 2003 is due, in part, to the
greater use of genetically modified animals in research aimed at
understanding what the 30,000 or so genes inside every human cell actually do.

"One of the things you can do is add a human gene to a mouse so that he
mouse gets a disease it otherwise would not have got, like cystic
fibrosis," said Dr Festing. "Then you can observe the mouse and try out
new therapies on it."

But Ms Hawkins said: "Do we actually need to know what every single gene
does? Often this is being done without a clear applied medical benefit in

Vivisection has become an increasingly fraught issue this year. In
January, Cambridge University abandoned plans for a new neuroscience
research facility, citing rising security costs as a result of animal
rights campaigns. In July, the main contractor behind the new animal
research lab at Oxford University pulled out after pressure by animal
rights groups. Two weeks later, the Home Office published plans to
toughen the law against protests outside the homes of scientists.

Last weekend, animal rights campaigners from around the world met in Kent
to learn how to put pressure on companies and universities that practice

Earlier this year, the government announced the formation of a research
centre for the replacement, refinement and reduction (known as the 3Rs)
of animals in research, with a budget of around GBP 600,000.


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