Letter: Man's best friend?

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Sir: Steve Connor's article on on xenotransplantation ("Why not have a heart-to-heart with a pig?" 1 August) was astonishingly simplistic. Creating genetically engineered pigs from which organs can be taken and transplanted into primates, with the organ grafts surviving for over 60 days is a great breakthrough. However this is still only a small step towards successfully transplanting these organs into humans.

The issue of viral transmission is potentially extremely dangerous to the transplanted community and to the population at large and there will have to be conclusive studies done to show that transmission risk will be negligible before these transplants would be allowed to go ahead. This is particularly valid as there are other options for these patients - ie increasing the number of organs from human donors both cadaveric and living.

To increase the numbers of transplants done, and so reduce the suffering of several thousand people in this country alone, human donation needs to be strongly encouraged. If we see pigs as the answer to these problems we may not get the publicity needed to start helping these patients now.