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Pigs cloned in transplant breakthrough
Source: AFP
Published: Wednesday March 15, 5:02 AM

EDINBURGH, March 14 - The news that pigs have been successfully cloned, hailed today as a breakthrough in the race to produce organs for transplant to humans, sparked safety fears and objections on ethical grounds.

"An end to the chronic organ shortage is now in sight," said Ron James, managing director of developer PPL Therapeutics, whose share price shot up 56 per cent on the news.

But author Patrick Dixon said it was only a matter of time before a human embryo was cloned.

"There is a global race, if not a stampede towards it," he said.

Dixon, author of The Genetic Revolution, also warned that transplanted pig organs could contain 'silent viruses' that would emerge once they were in the new human host.

But James countered: "There is no reason to believe there is a silent virus," he said, adding that the dangers would be averted by the 'knock-out' technology which scientists had developed to switch off harmful genes.

Pig organs have been rejected by human recipients because of a particular gene. Now, the scientists hope to produce a cloned pig in which this gene is effectively 'knocked out'.

"All the known technical hurdles have now been overcome," James said.

"It is a case of combining the various strategies into one male and one female pig, and breeding from these ... to produce knock-out pigs."

The Edinburgh-based PPL, which helped create Dolly the sheep, implanted cloned eggs in a sow that gave birth to five female piglets on March 5 in Blacksburg, Virginia.

The first successful cloning of pigs is a major step on the way to producing pigs whose organs and cells can be transplanted into humans, a process called xenotransplantation.

Researchers have long been interested in pigs for organs, as these animals produce multiple offspring and are already grown for food - unlike our primate cousins - and many pig organs closely resemble human organs in size and physiology.

The scientists are seeking to create a strain of pigs whose organs and cells will not be rejected by humans. This is the stumbling block that has stymied previous attempts at xenotransplantation.

The British Medical Association warned that the cloning of pigs raised serious issues of both safety and ethics.

"What we are talking about is a technique that carries risks for the population at large, as well as the potential to save lives," said the BMA's head of ethics, science and health policy, Vivienne Nathanson.

The pigs could also be used to make insulin-producing cells for use in diabetic patients - who would no longer need daily injections.

Dixon said the safety issue cut both ways - the technique also posed risks for the pigs.

"One particular strain of humanised pig which was produced suffered arthritis, blindness and impotence," he said.

Dolly, the world's first successfully cloned mammal, was created by a joint venture between PPL and the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, and formed the basis for the technology used to clone the piglets.

Four of the five piglets born early this month had had names picked out for them, as the fifth was unexpected.

The firstborn was named Millie as the firm's first clone of the new millennium; Christa was named after Christiaan Barnard, who performed the world's first human heart transplant in 1967; Alexis and Carrel were named in honor of Alexis Carrel, who won the Nobel Prize in 1912 for his pioneering work on transplant medicine.

The fifth piglet was named Dotcom.

"Any association with dot-coms right now seems to have a very positive influence on a company's valuation," James explained.


"It is a case of combining the various strategies into one male and one female pig, and breeding from these ... to produce knock-out pigs." Hmmm....& here I thought to old procreation way was good fun. These humans take all the joy out of it, as usual.

Regards from dotty Down Under

-- Pieter (, March 14, 2000


will the pork chops taste even better now?

-- boo (, March 14, 2000.

Well, this gives the term "MCP" a new twist!

As far as the race being on to clone a human, I'd be amazed if it already hasn't happened. Probably hundreds, or thousands, of times.

My oldest boy, who has been a practicing veterinarian for a little over five years, told me a couple of years ago, when we heard about the cloned sheep, that he thought it would be very simple to clone a human, and that he himself thought he could do it, if he were back at vet school (Texas A&M) with its laboratory equipment.

He did a lot of gene splicing, a requirement to get the degree, I believe. He showed me photos of the process. They used a very fine needle, (I'm telling you, it's a FINE needle) to cut and splice single cells apart, and put them back together however they wanted to. Sorry, but I can't explain it any better than that--I'm a builder, not a DVM!

Want to hear something which, to me at least, is even more frightening than human cloning? My niece, who was ten or eleven last year when I was down visiting, showed me one of her class assignments. Believe it or not, these little kids were doing genetic engineering on e coli cells!

About thirty years ago, when genetic engineering was no more than a gleam in the eyes of some "mad scientists", we were assured by the powers that be that there would be incredible safeguards in place to make absolutely certain that no genetically altered E.COLI could POSSIBLY escape into the environment! Now kids are playing with them.

I would also like to point out that, at that time (back in the early '70s) e. coli was considered a benign organism. I used to take water samples, from wells and streams, and grow the little buggers in agar agar filled petri dishes. In the case of the well water samples, this was to determine if there had been surface water contamination, but the e.coli themselves were only an indicator organism; they were NOT HARMFULL THEMSELVES.

Now, thirty years later, what's the big fear being played up in the media? E. coli! People are getting severe enteritis, usually extremely debilitating, and sometimes fatal.

I believe there may be a connection between the experimentation of the early 70's and the "new" deadly e. coli. After all, this is exactly what was forecast by the "doomers" of the day--a strain of e.coli (it's the bacteria which lives in your gut, you know, which is why a gentetically engineered e. coli was so feared) which, once turned loose, could conceivably wreak havoc on our GI tract.

What next?

-- jumpoff joe a.k.a. Al K. Lloyd (, March 14, 2000.

Gawwd, this is scary. Hi, Al K. Say, what if one of those kids has a little grudge and decides to add a topping of e coli to a classmates lunch. Or what if some enterprising kid blends a few unknown "bugs" to the e coli and it mutates into a voracious knee-cap chomper.

Why are they racing to embrace every new thing that comes along. It seems to me that some long term studies should take place first. One fellow says, "There is no reason to believe there is a silent virus." Yes, but he doesn't know that.

-- gilda (, March 14, 2000.

This company claims to be cloning humans.

-- Lynn Ratcliffe (, March 14, 2000.

Hi, Gilda,

Yes, it is getting very scary. I'm not sure about e. coli eating your kneecaps; the greatest danger, it seems to me, is that e.coli already is evolved (I know, there's no such thing) to live in the intestines of warm blooded animals. So any e. coli which is genetically altered will be able to live in your intestines, but may be able to thrive at the expense of your natural e.coli, which are there for a very good reason--to help digest your food.

Gawwd, this is scary. Hi, Al K. Say, what if one of those kids has a little grudge and decides to add a topping of e coli to a classmates lunch. Or what if some enterprising kid blends a few unknown "bugs" to the e coli and it mutates into a voracious knee-cap chomper.

As far as why "they have to embrace every new thing that comes along", perhaps it's just human nature. Lots of people want to have the latest of every type of gadget. Maybe the genetic engineers just want to have the latest experiment. Who knows. Boys will be boys? Sorry, I am one, and know what kind of weird shit we boys will play around with.

Some boys like to play with firecrackers. Guns. Bombs. some like to torture innocent animals. Others innocent children. I guess I'm saying that there are all kinds of strange people out there, and unfortunately, some of them play with very dangerous toys.

Am I being a sexist by talking about boys? Maybe. You be the judge. How many girls like to play with such strange and dangerous toys? I'll wager a lot less than boys.

-- jumpoff joe a.k.a. Al K. Lloyd (, March 14, 2000.

Any Viet vets out there that recognize the phrase "long pig"? for those of us who do makes the clone concept a little worse, doesn't it. Youngsters need not inquire.

-- another government hack (, March 14, 2000.

Al, I think it's true boys do lean towards risky and dangerous behavior; maybe it's the macho thing of not wanting to appear a sissy. I really don't know. I only raised the one boy, and he certainly indulged in enough risky behavior, but that was mainly from serious auto accidents--two cars totally wrecked--and he walked away with hardly a scratch either time.

I agree it's human nature to embrace every new thing that comes along. But when it comes to this sort of thing, I feel scientists, etc., should err or the side of prudence.

I haven't talked to you in so long, that I haven't had a chance to tell you that my two pet sitters have moved. I really miss them. They were such nice, interesting girls. Now we don't have anyone to look after the animals and we can't get away until we find a sitter. When you have 4 dogs and 9 cats, boarding is out of the question. We have a new teenage neighbor, but she's impossible.

I printed out that long post on the BIG PICTURE. I wanted my grandkids to read it someday, and see that some of us in the world really were concerned with the population issue.

If you ever want to email me, just send Flint an email, his is real, and he will give you my addy. I asked him if he would mind doing this for me, so its ok.. You'd asked for it once before, but on the old board I didn't have anyone to contact. I sure didn't want my real email on that board.

-- gilda (, March 15, 2000.

spam comes from pigs doesn't it

-- rich (, March 15, 2000.

surely US presidents have been cloned for years with different faces grafted on

(this is not an anti-US jibe and I'm not saying UK PM's are or are not)

-- Sir Rich of Shoreditch (, March 15, 2000.

Hack, I managed to avoid Viet Nam by joining the Coast Guard (yes, I AM tall; why do you ask?) But I do know the term "long pig". But it certainly wasn't coined in Viet Nam. It was the actual word for "human" used by some group of cannibals from way back when; I'm thinking they lived in the Carribean, but I learned about them when I was only a teenager, which was way before US involvement in Viet Nam.

Hi, Gilda,

I wasn't trying to imply that it's OK for us boys to play with dangerous toys. Only explaining what the reason might be. I certainly agree that scientific types should know better than to take terrible risks like they sometimes do. And that also goes for school teachers and administrators! They SHOULD err on the side of prudence; you're right. Unfortunately, many don't. I've read several reports that scientists at Los Alamos, New Mexico, part of the Manhattan project, actually decided to go ahead with atom bomb tests, even though there were a sizeable number of them who had serious concerns that the chain reaction which was required for a nuclear reaction could continue into the non nuclear materials, and completely destroy the Earth (as in turning it into a gigantic nuclear reaction)

These idiots decided it was worth a try...

Great idea to copy that whole thread; it was extremely educational, not only about population issues, but about human nature. Wow, what a wild ride!

Weren't your sitters your nieces, or something? I was thinking that the older one called you "Aunt Gilda" while explaining that she was worried about using your computer without asking first.

Sir Rich, of course they are clones. They may be clones raised to be the personal puppets of the WTO, for all I know. Certainly, they aren't any more interested in representing the common person than the man in the moon.

Yes, I'm somewhat disillusioned with politics as usual.

-- jumpoff joe a.k.a. Al K. Lloyd (, March 15, 2000.

well its better than being a pig-ised human

ask Laura (younger than) springtime

-- richard (, March 16, 2000.

actually a humanised pig or pig-ised human must be a result of inter breeding

is that what you've been doing

well we know Dog is into bestiality, maybe Springer Spaniel is as well who knows

what is the first thing that dogs do on greeting, well what a stupid question, well dogs are stupid, lets ask them, dogs please reply

-- richard (, March 16, 2000.

No, Sitter and Bonkers were not my nieces. They called me Aunty because I was like an aunt, and they were like nieces. I sure miss them.

I knew what you meant about boys and dangerous toys. I didn't say that very well. I can remember when my son was little how he cried when we had to leave a little girl's house and he couldn't take her doll. So I bought him a doll, and he loved it, but he love his guns too.

Did you hear the fellow on TV last night talking about the dangers of using pigs for human body parts.

-- gilda (, March 16, 2000.

yes its not very kosher is it

-- richard (, March 16, 2000.

No Gilda, actually, I gave up my TV habit back in 1973. I realize that what was happening was that I would sit down after work to watch the six o'clock news, then suddenly realize the test pattern was on, and it was eleven o'clock, and I would wonder where my evening had gone, and maybe I'd be better off playing with my little boy (now 30) or visiting with my wife, friends, neighbors, etc.

I've never missed it, either, although we do have tv for watching the occasional video.

I have heard about "unseen viruses" or something like that. What were the concerns you mentioned?

Personlly, if I ever need a body part, I hope I have the good grace to accept my mortality, and die gracefully. But I'm not trying to say that anyone else should have this philosophy.

-- jumpoff joe a.k.a. Al K. Lloyd (, March 16, 2000.

jj, I'm so impressed that you gave up TV. Actually, I watch very few shows, but those I watch I'm addicted to. I love Discovery, History and some of BBC. My husband is a news junkie, so I kind of hear the news by default.

About body parts, I'm like you. I too plan to accept my mortality and go out with my own, old worn out parts, if I live that long. Maybe though it's because I'm a chicken, I seldom go to the Doctor, and the idea of the surgery for part replacement just horrifies me.

-- gilda (, March 16, 2000.

Gilda, lots of folks keep telling me what I'm missing by not watching various programs. One of the ones mentioned is the Discovery channel.

I watched a couple of shows on it while visiting my kid and his family a month or so ago. They were about the building of the Golden Gate Bridge and Boulder Dam. The stories were extremely interesting, but the commentation was so overemotional that it reminded me of the old General Electric/ Redi Kilowat commercials of the fifties! I hope they all aren't that corny.

Worse, to me, was the incredible amount of advertising. Like I said, it's been a long time, and I had no idea that the adds were such a large percentage of the program.

I watched Public TV recently, while being wired for a sleep clinic (another strange tale). It was a very well done couple of programs, but I was surprised to see that they were actually selling books written by the speakers. Maybe it was because it was their pledge week or something, which it was.

A friend just gave me an entire satellite set up, when he upgraded. If public tv is available, I might just give it a try; however, I am a self confessed "videot", and will have to go through withdrawals all over again if I get hooked this time.

-- jumpoff joe a.k.a. Al K. Lloyd (, March 16, 2000.

jj, before we got sattelite TV, I too watched PBS for years, and like network and satellite TV they began to have more and more advertising, and by corporations I really don't like, such as ADM and GE. But the ads and books sales are a fact of life. I read where there are more and more ads every year, and I hate it.

I too saw the bridge thing on Discovery and they do get a little carried away sometimes. But the shows I really enjoy are about ancient life in Africa, the archaelogical digs, finding more new things in the pyramids, and finding out about the wonderful species that were here and are now gone. Species loss is something I worry about as we are losing them at such a fast rate.

-- gilda (, March 16, 2000.

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