XENOTRANSPLANTATION: Study Finds Pig Organs May Be Safe
A new study indicates that transplanting pig organs into humans is safe, "a finding that should open the door to clinical trials for thousands of desperate patients who will die without new hearts, livers and kidneys," the Chicago Tribune reports. The study looked at 160 patients "who had been exposed to pig tissue." It found that none of the patients were "infected with a worrisome virus all pigs carry in their genes." The findings, published in the journal Science, "are expected to end a moratorium on animal-to-human transplants." Lead researcher Dr. Khazal Paradis said, "It's really good news for all those people waiting for this potentially lifesaving technology." Another study researcher, Dr. Louisa Chapman of the CDC, called it study a "substantial advance," but cautioned that "all (human-to-animal transplants) must continue to be closely watched for viruses" (Gorner, 8/20). The study did produce one surprising finding, the New York Times reports: "[A]mong those patients whose treatment had consisted of having their blood filtered through pig spleens, pig cells were still circulating in the bloodstream eight years after the procedure." While one researcher involved in the study said this was good news because no infection could be detected despite the long-term presence of pig cells, Dr. Jonathan Allan of the Southwest Foundation for Medical Research said, "If pig cells are still there, there is still a potential that a pig virus could be expressed and infect the patient at some later time." Both FDA and CDC officials said the outcome of the study "did not completely allay their safety concerns" (Stolberg, 8/20).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.