Volume 95, Issue 60

Friday, January 18, 2002
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Drug test rocks Mustangs

Candidates resume called into question

Lunn new Orientation Officer

Soph sues Shinerama

Prof: animal organs could be alternative

Speaker motivates poor

News Briefs

Prof: animal organs could be alternative

By Jeff Hignett
Gazette Writer


Besides being one of the rare English Language words that begins with the letter 'x,' it also means the transplantation of animal organs into humans.

For Canadians awaiting organ transplants, some members of the medical community – including one Western professor – believe animal transplantation could provide a viable alternative, though more research and information is needed.

There has been little research progress in the field thus far and more funding is required, said Robert Van Tangerloo, executive director of the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies and co-chair of the Public Consultation Advisory Group on xenotransplantation.

At this time, pigs have been distinguished as the best animal to use for transplantation as their organs are the right size and are easier to raise in sterile, isolated surroundings than those of other animals, said Van Tangerloo.

However, there are still many problems associated with transplanting animal organs into humans, he said. "The failure rate [of xenotransplantation at present] is 97 per cent," Van Tangerloo explained.

"We don't know what viruses pigs carry which could affect humans," he added. "[Possible viruses] could parallel diseases as serious as AIDS and not show up for years."

While the concept of xenotransplantation is certainly interesting, it is not yet realistic, Van Tangerloo said.

It is also important for other human factors, including diet, execrcise, drugs and alcohol, to be looked at as ways to lower organ disease rates, Van Tangerloo said.

Other alternatives, including making organ donation after death mandatory unless otherwise specified – instead of the opposite, as is the current procedure in Canada – are more realistic and should be pursued more rigorously, he said.

The Canadian Public Health Association, an advisory body to Health Canada, has released a public opinion report that indicates Canadians would like to see more information before xenotransplantation is permitted.

Joaquin Madrenas, an associate professor of microbiology and immunology at Western, agreed with the CPHA report's call for a ban on transplanting animal organs into humans until safety and ethical issues become clear.

Madrenas said, in the future, xenotransplantation could be a solution to the increasing demand for organ donors.

"We are still a few years away," he said. "We need to come up with a consensus with researchers and clinics and look at risks of disease."

The Animal Alliance of Canada, an opponent of research where the animal does not benefit, said they are appalled at the lack of public scrutiny that occurs for these animals.

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