GENTECH archive 8.96-97


Brits Bar Xenotransplants

.c The Associated Press 

LONDON (AP) -- Britain barred the transplant of animal organs to humans on
Thursday, saying the risk of disease transmission must be better understood. 

The decision came after a report by a government-appointed panel of experts,
which was chiefly concerned that animal viruses in the transplanted organs
could introduce new diseases into humans. 

Advocates hope that the transplant of animal organs can save patients' lives
in cases where human organs for transplant are scarce. 

Imutran, a Cambridge-based company pioneering the use of genetically modified
pigs to provide human organs, said it accepted that further research was
needed before clinical trials could proceed. 

Pigs are known to harbor several retroviruses -- the family of virus that
includes HIV -- one of which was only discovered in the last two years.
Research has shown that some of them can infect animal cells in the

The company said it hoped to work with regulators ``to ensure that there is
no unnecessary delay in bringing this technology to fruition.'' 

New laws to govern species-to-species transplants are to be introduced as
soon as possible, the government said. 

But Britain has made it clear that emergency legislation will be brought in
if necessary to halt human trials. A decision to allow animal-to-human
transplants will only be taken once scientists agree that the risk is

``I'm not saying pigs have a retrovirus like HIV, but I don't think anyone
can hold up their hand and say they know yet,'' said advisory group member
Herb Sewell, professor of immunology at Queen's Medical Center in Nottingham.

The pigs are bred with human genes that cause their organs to be coated with
human molecules, which is meant to prevent the most severe form of rejection
in a human patient. 

Imutran said even if clinical trials began, routine transplants from pigs to
humans would not take place until the next century. 

In the United States, Food and Drug Administration guidelines issued in
September cover everything from the breeding of animals to the makeup of
transplant teams to try to ensure that cross-species transplants are safe. 

AP-NY-01-16-97 2002EST 

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