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Pandora's Box fear of animal viruses crossing to humans.

MANY experts remain unconvinced that "xenotransplants" between species are safe

The fear is that genetic viruses could cross from the donor species to humans, causing diseases similar to AIDS or CJD.

Recent research by scientists at Glasgow University centred on Porcine Endogenous Retrovirus, which appeared capable of infecting human cells in laboratory tests.

Over thousands of years, the virus has become permanently integrated into the genetic material of pigs and does them no harm.

Critics of xenotransplants say that doesn't count for anything in a different species and it may unleash unpredictable and devastating effects in humans.

But the Glasgow research suggested any risk was extremely small and, in America, xenotransplant work has been successfully carried out.

In Britain, there is also pressure to allow the procedure because of the demand for organs. There were 7000 people waiting for transplants at the end of last year but the total number of donors was less than 1000.
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Author:McLEAN, JIM
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Mar 15, 2000
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