BRITAIN BARS TRANSPLANTS FROM ANIMALS TO HUMANS; U.S. APPROVES
"Britain Bans Transplants from Animals to People," STAR TRIBUNE, January 17, 1997; "Brits Bar Xenotransplants," ASSOCIATED PRESS, January 17, 1997.
The British government on January 16 barred xeno transplants, the transplant of animal organs to humans, until the risk of disease transmission is better understood. The decision was based on a report by a government-appointed panel of experts concerned that transplanted animal organs could introduce new diseases to humans. The government said that new legislation will be introduced as soon as possible to govern species to species transplants, but has made it clear that emergency legislation will be implemented when necessary to halt human trials. Imutran, a Cambridge-based company, who is pioneering the use of genetically modified pigs to provide human organs, said they accepted that further research was needed before proceeding with clinical trials.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a set of xenotransplant guidelines in September of 1996 that allows animal to human transplants, and puts the responsibility for health and safety at the level of local hospitals and medical review boards. A group of 44 top virologists, primate researchers, and AIDS specialists have attacked the FDA guidelines, saying, "based on knowledge of past cross-species transmissions, including AIDS, Herpes B virus, Ebola, and other viruses, the use of animals has not been adequately justified for use in a handful of patients when the potential costs could be in the hundreds, thousands or millions of human lives should a new infectious agent be transmitted." On January 16, the FDA said it would issue revised guidelines eventually, based on comments from both opponents and advocates of xenotransplantation.