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Channel 4 Satirist Mark Thomas Tackles Xenotransplantation

Uncaged Campaigns were guests at the recording of the satirical comedy show, The Mark Thomas Product (MTP) on Sunday 16th January, for a programme critically examining the research and regulation of xenotransplantation and genetic engineering.

We supplied material for the programme researchers at Vera Productions. The programme was broadcast on Thursday 20th January, and ended with a plea for the public to carry donor cards in order to undermine Imutran / Novartis's excuse for researching xenotransplantation.

For further information see www.channel4.com/mark_thomas

Max Newton, Uncaged Campaigns 14/03/00


"Cloned pigs are cruel folly"

Statement from Dan Lyons, spokesperson for Uncaged Campaigns, leading opponents of xenotransplantation:

Today’s announcement of the cloning of five genetically-engineered piglets by PPL Therapeutics is a disturbing development that should be halted immediately.

It has been suggested that this development will accelerate progress towards xenotransplantation. This, however, is untrue. Cloning merely offers the prospect of a more efficient way of producing transgenic pigs. It makes no difference to whether xenotransplantation will actually be successful.

There are a number of biological barriers to pig-to-human transplants which we believe will prove to be insurmountable. The genetic engineering of pigs has focussed on overcoming the first rejection processes that would attack a pig organ in a human body: hyperacute rejection. However, there are several subsequent acute and chronic rejection processes. In hundreds of experiments where higher primates such as macaque monkeys and baboons have received pig organs, It has not been possible to find a way of preventing these rejection processes, which are much stronger than with conventional human organ transplants, despite the administration of high doses of immunosuppressant drug cocktails.

There are fundamental biological differences between pig organs and human organs. One simple study identified eight major anatomical differences between pig hearts and human hearts.(1) Pig kidneys function differently to human kidneys, producing different proteins and hormones in different quantities.(2)

Pig viruses will remain a threat. Pigs contain known and unknown viruses that have the potential to mutate, recombine and replicate in a new human host and infect other humans. Viruses are mysterious, unpredictable and difficult to treat, and no infection surveillance regime for xenograft recipients can hope to contain the threat posed by pig viruses.(3)

The push towards xenotransplantation is already creating brand new areas of animal suffering and destruction. Uncaged Campaigns believes that this is a fundamentally backward step for our society. We should be trying to act in a responsible and respectful manner towards other animals, not intensifying our tyranny over them. Cloning itself has very worrying implications for animal welfare, with unforeseen side-effects causing suffering.(4)

Uncaged Campaigns is calling on the Government to ban xenotransplantation research on cost-benefit grounds - the legal basis of policy on animal experiments in the UK.(3) The likelihood of benefits is very remote, while the risk to public health is potentially severe and the costs to animals in terms of suffering and death have already been huge - over 10,000 pigs and almost 300 monkeys killed in xenotransplantation research in the UK so far.(5) Furthermore, there is potential to increase the supply of human organs through realising the potential of the donor card system or implementing a presumed consent system for organ donation, a move now supported by the British Medical Association.

Notes

  1. Crick SJ et al, "Anatomy of the pig heart: comparisons with normal human cardiac structure", J Anat 1998 Jul; 193 (Pt 1): 105-19.
  2. Langley G & D’Silva J, Animal organs in humans (BUAV & CIWF: 1998): 33-38.
  3. Lyons D. "Xenografting will never be free of infection risk", Bulletin of Medical Ethics 1999, November; 152:19-23.
  4. Jones, J. (1999). Cloning may cause health defects. British Medical Journal, 318: 1230, 8 May. ‘Giant’ lambs put future of cloning in doubt. Sunday Times, 27 July 1997, p. 5.
  5. Woolf, M. (2000). 10,000 pigs killed in transplant labs. Electronic Telegraph, Wednesday 9 February.

Dan Lyons is one of the leading critics of xenotransplantation in the UK. Articles from Dan Lyons on the subject of xenotransplantation have appeared in the Bulletin of Medical Ethics. Dan Lyons has also met with Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, Junior Minister at the Department of Health with responsibility for xenotransplantation. He is currently studying part-time for a PhD in the ethical and political implications of xenotransplantation.

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Uncaged 1993-2012: This is the archived website of Uncaged. All information correct at the time of archiving - November 2012.