Pigs to be bred for human organ transplants
Lord Winston, the UK fertility expert, is to start breeding
pigs in order to produce hearts, livers and kidneys for transplanting for humans. Winston believes
genetically modified organs provide the best solution to tackle the shortage of
organs needed. A record number of almost 8,000 British patients are waiting for
The highly controversial method of
transplanting animal organs - xenotransplantation - has been tried before with
limited success. Many of the organs were rejected by the patients' immune
system. The pigs will be bred with approximately six human genes to prevent
patients rejecting their organs. Winston's team will need to prove that the pig
organs can be sufficiently modified to survive long-term in the human body.
Winston said: "Pigs' organs are the right size for human
transplantation, and they work similarly to human organs. Of course this raises
a moral problem, but it is much more ethical to use a pig to save a human life
than to use it for relatively unnecessary meat eating."
Pigs involved in experiments have
successfully produced transgenic sperm, but Winston acknowledges that British
and European laws prevent the team from using the pigs to mate.
The research project is now moving from Britain to America after British
regulations and a shortage of funding prevented experiments here, with the pig
breeding to take place in Missouri. The method could see hundreds of genetically
modified pigs reared simultaneously for their organs with organs to be taken
from pigs as young as one year.Click here for
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