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Subsequent news:  The Cook Islands health minister has responded to  theCampaign for Responsible Transplantation that it has canceled xeno experiment

Xenotransplantation experiments in Mexico
and planned in the Cook Islands

    After the New Zealand government refused to permit a trial by Distranz, Ltd to transplant pig pancreatic island cells into humans, the New Zealand company arranged to conduct trials in Mexico and the Cook Islands in the South Pacific.

    The company has already transplanted pig islet cells into 12 diabetic Mexican children and plans further experiments in the Cook Islands.  The company's genetically-modified pigs have tested positive for three classes of porcine endogenous retroviruses (PERVs).  Diatranz claims that its patients have remained free of infection after one year - not long in the life of a retrovirus - but one patient was found to have pig DNA  in his/her blood, suggesting a potential infection.

    Diatranz's experiments were condemned by the New Zealand Ministry of Health, which enacted a moratorium on clinical xeno trials last year and issued a "xenotransplantation research warning" in a media release on March 7th.  The release stated that: studies on the benefits to Diatranz's patients were inadequate and did not counterbalance the risks of transferring animal viruses to humans. Moreover, Mexico and the Cook Islands did not have the appropriate regulatory mechanisms in place to safeguard public health or monitor patients and their contacts for viruses on a long term basis.

    According to the Campaign for Responsible Transplantation (CRT), the risks of xenotransplantation include the transferal of pig viruses to humans, the difficulty of breeding transgenic pigs whose organs, cells and tissues would not be rejected by humans, the potential threat to the blood supply from the widespread adoption of xenotransplantation, and the lack of any clear clinical success.   

    "The fact is that xenotransplantation trials being conducted in the U.S. are just as dangerous as any conducted in Mexico because this technology is inherently dangerous and can never be made safe," says CRT's Alix Fano.  "Moreover, xenotransplant guidelines in the U.S. are voluntary and cannot be legally enforced. Patients can drop out of clinical trials and monitoring schemes at any time, and disappear - viruses and all.  If we want to safeguard the public health, we should ban xenotransplantation now, and for good."     CRT Press Release, March 13, 02

Progress in organ procurement

     Sweden and Denmark have increased their supply of donor organs significantly by giving citizens the option of signing a donor form when they renew driver's licenses or pay income taxes.

     British Columbia has achieved a 400% increase in available organs by empowering the BC Transplant Society to maintain a data base and supervise the program from education to retrieval.

     Pennsylvania and North Carolina have realized a 50% increase in available organs by requiring acute care hospitals to refer all deaths to their organ procurement programs.  Arizona, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Tennessee are considering similar legislation.

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