Extract from The Guardian, 11 July 2003, by Polly Curtis

MPS ARE DEMANDING TO KNOW how the Home Office allowed experiments involving the transplant of genetically modified piglets' hearts into the necks of wild baboons to be classed as "moderate".

The transplants by the company Imutran at the Huntingdon Life Sciences laboratories in Cambridge all occurred before 2000. But the facts of the experiments only became public after a legal battle between the company and campaigning group Uncaged Animals, to whom the documents had been leaked.

The documents were published in April and first reported in the Observer. They revealed how a quarter of the dozens of baboons involved died from "technical failures", others were left with transplant wounds weeping fluid for hours on end and several died on the journey to Britain.

The Imutran documents, quoted in the Observer, said: "The Home Office will attempt to get the kidney transplants classified as "moderate", ensuring that it is easier for Imutran to receive a licence and ignoring the "severe" nature of these programmes."

Last week the Common's home affairs select committee wrote to the Home Office demanding to know how it implemented the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 in relation to the Imutran case.

A spokeswoman for the committee confirmed this and said that, depending on the response from the committee which will be published in October, it may chose to conduct a full inquiry.

Although the committee is not publishing its letter to the Home Office, the spokeswoman confirmed that it was raising a lot of the issues raised in a memo from Uncaged Campaigns.

Dan Lyons of Uncaged Campaigns told EducationGuardian.co.uk: "There's the issue of the severity bandings, we want to find out how the Home Office can justify classifying severe procedures which can lead to death as 'moderate'.

"The central aspect of the complaint goes to the heart of the legislation. The Home Office is meant to implement a cost-benefit system. Imutran constantly claimed that pig-to-human heart transplants were around the corner - that every experiment was the last before they go into clinical trials.

"But over the five years Imutran failed to overcome the next step, which is overcoming acute vascular rejection. The experiment didn't bring the clinical benefits they claimed. Why didn't the Home Office step in and say the results of these experiments aren't bringing the benefits to justify the severity?"

Animal experiments under the 1986 Act must be rated as unclassified, mild, moderate or substantial. Experiments classified as moderate must not risk death and post-operation pain must be controlled through drugs. Substantial experiments pose risks of severe pain and death.

A spokewoman for the Home Office said: "The Home Office will be preparing a response to the HASC and will respond to the committee in due course."

She added: "The government accepts that the progress of scientific research and the development of new drugs and medical technologies depend on the use of the animals. However, there is a balance to be struck and we are working to ensure that animals are used only where fully justified."


Credit: Organ Farm

"Imutran constantly claimed that pig-to-human heart transplants were around the corner... But over the five years Imutran failed to overcome the next step, which is overcoming acute vascular rejection."



















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