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Science

Animal-to-Human Organ Transplant Experiments Cancelled 10

Posted by michael
from the Frankenstein's-Hog dept.
Spudley writes: "The BBC is reporting that experiments aimed at creating a pig with organs suitable for human transplant have been cancelled. Apparently the funding has been withdrawn, over fears of introducing new diseases to the human population. The research group involved is the Roslin Institute - the same people who brought us Dolly the sheep." Kinda creepy.
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Animal-to-Human Organ Transplant Experiments Cancelled

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  • It's not moral issues, animal rights, or the fact that it's "kinda creepy", though all are valid considerations.

    It's the very real threat of cross-species viral or prion infections. Think AIDS (primate origin) or mad cow disease. The risk is unacceptable.

  • Another disgusting example of technophobia run amuck. I'm not overly surprised that it happened on the other side of the Atlantic as anti- genetic-engineering vitriol is quite strong over there. I see more and more ludditeism every day lately. David -- man signature
  • ...so why not carry it on to the next logical step?

    A variety of tissues have already been used in cross-species transplants. Valves from pig's hearts just being the tip of the iceberg.

    PrimalChrome

  • And Mad Cow disease is a spongiforum of which there are plenty. It is basically a string of proteins outside of a viral shell that can get through the filters that blood goes through on its way to your brain. In order to get mad cow disease you must eat a cow that has eaten another cows brain.

    And without transplanting anything, it easily spreads from sheep to cow to human to squirrel to whatever. Though there is evidence that people can also be genetically pre-disposed towards having it, as well as being genetically more susceptible.

    It's basically a regular brain protein gone amok. It runs about re-folding the proper proteins and making them go "bad", too.

    -A. Aria

  • Maybe they just remembered that the strain of influenza that killed from 27-50 million (some say 21 million but some articles say 26mil died in India alone) in 1918 was closely related to the swine flu.

    "The virus apparently was a mutation that evolved in American pigs and was spread around the globe by U.S. troops mobilized for World War I. "
    Here's [junkscience.com] a link to the full article.
  • I see some of you guys criticizing this company for their decision and bringing up stats on how many thousands of lives can be saved from this technology. However, have you heard about the influenza epidemic in 1918 that killed anywhere from 21-50 million people worldwide? Well, in the past few years they analyzed the genetics of that strain and found that it was most closely related to the swine flu. It mutated to humans and killed millions in short time. Years later there have been other instances of swine flu mutations as well that affected the world.

    By genetically engineering pigs that are somewhere in between humans and real pigs, the risk of a new strain mutating to hit us goes up. Way up.
    http://www.junkscience.com/news/flu1918.htm

    I feel for those that are in need of organs and I'm a fully body donor on my license but given the choice of thousands of lives risked or millions, I'd choose the former.
  • AID's is only thought to have come from primate origin but most scientests agree that we don't really know where it came from other than somewhere in africa. And Mad Cow disease is a spongiforum of which there are plenty. It is basically a string of proteins outside of a viral shell that can get through the filters that blood goes through on its way to your brain. In order to get mad cow disease you must eat a cow that has eaten another cows brain. There was a simmilar outbreak with pigs in the late 1800's when as part of the slop that pigs got fed they also get fed pig. This is why you are still supposed to cook pork more than any other meat. Cross-Species infections have been happening for hundreds of years(black plague is the most nutorious but you also have cow pox[from which small pox probably evolved) and there isn't any evidance that Xenotransplantation will increase the likelyhood of them happening. dlgreen
  • I don't know, I find dying due to the inability to get a transplant organ a bit more creepy than living another 20 years with the heart of a pig in me. There are a long list of people waiting for organ transplants, and almost always, someone has to die for the organs to be available. I think we have three choices: 1) Develop cross species tranplants (organs from pigs and baboons). 2) Develop artificial organs ( a long way away). 3) Repeal the helmet law and subsidize motorcycle ownership. I think 1 has the most promise.
  • Yes, there's a risk that transplant recipients will contract disease via mutated pig viruses, and they may in turn pass it on to other people, thereby possibly initiating an epidemic.

    However, as I pointed out, all new technologies have associated risks. Would you support xenotransplant experiments if you felt that sufficient precautions were taken, and if the benefits outweighed the risks? If so, under what conditions? For example, if the pigs were raised in a sterile enclosure, would that satisfy you that the risk of disease transmission was low enough to proceed with the experiments? What if transplant recipients were monitored weekly for 5 years post transplant for signs of infection?

    As you point out, we are already subject to substantial risk of disease transmission from pigs. Yet is it appropriate to discriminate against potential xenotransplant recipients, who, after all, depend upon transplants for their lives? Why not shut down all pig farms as well? The existence of pig farms,if we accept the argument above, led to the existence of a virulent strain of swine flu that killed 27-50 million people, after all. If we're willing to tolerate pig farms in order to have bacon for breakfast, can we not tolerate a somewhat higher risk of disease in order to save people's lives?

    What benefits do xenotransplants offer? Xenotransplants offer benefits to everyone, not just those currently on transplant waiting lists. No doubt you would regard it as a terrible tragedy if everyone on the face of the earth died instantly in a nuclear holocaust. Would it be any less of a tragedy if they all died in a day? A week? A year? A hundred years? Yet all of us face physical decline and eventual death unless we figure out how to stop/reverse aging. For example, heart disease is the number one cause of death in the U.S. In 1997, according to the National Center for Health Statisitics [cdc.gov], 730,000 people died from heart disease. If healthy, young hearts were inexpensive and readily available, we could replace everyone's heart when they turned 50, prevent most of those deaths, and buy those people many more years of life. Likewise, all of the other organs could be similarly replaced. But this is not an option if organs remain rare, expensive, and difficult to obtain. Xenotransplants can change that.

  • Unacceptable by what criteria? Keep in mind that all technology, no matter how beneficial, can cause harm to some people. Vaccines for example, cause fatal allergic reactions in some people. People kill themselves in car accidents. Abundant food supplies have contributed to obesity which in turn contributes to heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Yet I wager few people would give up vaccines, cars, and abundant food supplies because of these negative side effects.

    Yes, some people may become infected from pig organs, and other people may in turn contract disease from them. But we're not helpless in the face of disease. Pigs can be tested for the presence of pathogens prior to transplant. Individuals can be monitored for the presence of bacteria and viruses (and you can be sure that people receiving pig organs will be closely monitored.) Individuals who contract diseases can be quarantined.

    Also, we already face the risk of become infected with diseases and parasites from other species. You can contract trichonosis by eating undercooked pork. Slaughterhouse workers are exposed to pig blood and offal on a daily basis. Transplant recipients are simply a new transmission vector among many other pre-existing vectors.

    Finally, keep in mind that we can be certain that people will die if they don't get organ transplants. According to the Council of Europe's home page [www.coe.fr]:

    Nearly 40,000 patients are at the moment waiting for a kidney in Western Europe whilst the number of cadaveric donors remains stable at around 5,000 each year. This is also the case in USA where the gap between the number of available organs and patients on the waiting list is also very high. They have more than 30,000 patients on the waiting list and the number of cadaveric donors is around 5,000 each year. Mortality rates while waiting for a heart, liver or lung transplant generally range between 15% and 30% but are even higher in some reports depending on the type of the organ needed. In 1994 there were no suitable livers for some 400 European citizens and around a further 400 died while waiting for a heart.
    Keep in mind that this doesn't represent the true need for organ transplants, as only patients who're most likely to benefit from a transplant are put onto the waiting list. The benefits of saving these patients lives, outweighs the admittedly unknown, but probably low, risk of disease transmission.

I never cheated an honest man, only rascals. They wanted something for nothing. I gave them nothing for something. -- Joseph "Yellow Kid" Weil

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