Volume 93, Issue 43

Tuesday, November 16, 1999


Patron stabbed at the Wave

Research to further pig/human transplant goals

CIBC donates $1 million to fund new programs

Project on garbage wins award

A glass of booze a day keeps the doctor away

Gas and fire cause false alarms, not panic

Chaplains to give peace a chance

Caught on campus


Research to further pig/human transplant goals

By Leena Kamat
Gazette Staff

A government grant may result in humans getting more then just pork products from pigs.

Energy, Science and Technology Minister Jim Wilson announced yesterday the allocation of $5.7 million in funding to a research team at the John P. Robarts Research Institute. The researchers are currently attempting to devise a foolproof procedure which transplants pig organs into humans, said Christine Staddon, communications officer for the Ontario Research and Development Challenge Fund.

Staddon said the research proposal fit with the challenge fund's criteria with regards to the quality of the research and team, the project's vision and the benefits of the possible outcomes.

"The main purpose is to keep top researchers in Ontario," Staddon said. "[Also] new businesses may come out of these projects."

Bob Zhong, director of experimental surgery at the London Health Sciences Centre and an assistant professor at Western, said the researchers are currently raising pigs with human genes and transplanting their organs into baboons. Baboons are used since they are the primates considered closest to humans, he explained.

These transplants are known as xenotransplantation, which refers to transplanting between two different species, Zhong said. Kidneys will be the primary organs used in the transplants, along with the heart, he added.

The team successfully transplanted the kidney's of pigs into baboons earlier this year, which were not rejected by the baboons for a world record 40 days, Zhong said. He added once the transplants are accepted for six months, the team may start clinical trials with human recipients."Because these are human genes [in the pigs], theoretically, the genes should work better in humans [over baboons]," Zhong said.

To protect against disease, Zhong said the pigs are raised in bacteria-free environments where the risk of infection is greatly reduced.

Mark Poznansky, president and scientific director of the Robarts Institute said the low availability of organs is a huge medical problem and many people are often left dying while on waiting lists.

Bill Bridger, Western's VP-research, confirmed the research institute will provide about one-third of the total $16.8 million cost.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999