Pig transplant breakthrough

Click to follow
The Independent Online
SCIENTISTS were a step closer to performing the first pig-to- human transplant yesterday after a worldwide study revealed no evidence that pig organs are likely to spread potentially dangerous viruses to humans.

The finding, published in the journal Science, clears the way for research on the use of genetically modified (GM) pigs' organs for transplant. Safety fears have delayed experiments for more than two years.

If rejection problems can be overcome and the use of animals is deemed to be safe, the technique could solve the worldwide shortage of donor organs.

Imutran, which has bred a herd of GM pigs as a source of transplant organs, said it was "an important milestone in the development of this potentially life saving technology".

Fears about viruses jumping from pigs to man triggering a pandemic on the scale of Aids led the Government to ban trials of animal-to-human transplants until their safety had been settled. It established a regulatory authority, which is currently considering applications from two companies, to control the research.

John Wallwork, a former director and head of transplant surgery at Papworth Hospital, said: "I certainly hope to be present at the first transplant and if it is a heart I hope to do it. It is a British idea and it should be done in the UK."