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ANIMAL ORGANS FOR HUMAN USE GET FAVORABLE REVIEWS AT MEETING.

Byline: Geir Moulson Associated Press

Transplanting animal organs into humans offers such promise that nations should work together to overcome scientific and ethical problems, experts said last week at a U.N.-sponsored meeting.

Scientists have suggested in recent years that animals not only could ease the shortage of kidneys, hearts and livers for transplantation, but could supply brain tissue to treat diseases like Parkinson's and pancreatic tissue to treat diabetes.

Attention has focused on the pig, which has internal organs the right size for transplant to humans and breeds rapidly, meaning a large potential organ supply.

There is concern, however, over the risk of infections crossing species barriers. Experiments so far have focused on limited transplantation of animal tissue rather than whole organs.

The World Health Organization sponsored a two-day meeting ending Thursday to examine the possibilities and implications of ``xenotransplantation.''

British bioethics expert Dr. Rachel Bartlett said the starting point is the situation faced by people in need of transplants but unable to find donor organs.

Professor Jeffrey Platt of Duke University said as little as 5 percent to 15 percent of the donor organs required may be available.

About 2,000 heart transplants are carried out every year in the United States, while an estimated 40,000 hearts are needed. The problem is magnified in developing countries.

Platt said every conceivable way to increase the amount of organs available for transplant in the United States has been tried, but all have fallen well short of meeting requirements.

The use of nonhuman organs could solve the dilemma of how available organs are distributed, Platt said. He also denied that the need for organs could be met by using dialysis and other mechanical procedures.

The experts said they also discussed the implications of transplants from pigs with scholars of Islam and Judaism, both of which forbid eating the animal as unclean, and had received a generally favorable response.

``The Koran and the Old Testament - Leviticus particularly - talk about the pig only in dietary terms,'' said professor Abdallah S. Daar of Oman University. ``Neither restricts the introduction of porcine material through other orifices or through surgical incisions.''

Some concerns have been raised over the development of ``transgenic'' animals, containing a human gene, to reduce the risks of patients rejecting organs.

Such animals could be viewed as hybrids, but Bartlett said the human gene is ``one gene of many'' that would bring about only a ``small and specific change.''
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Nov 2, 1997
Words:408
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