Non-human primates should never be considered as source animals for any future clinical trials of animal-to-human transplantation

Australia’s leading health advisory body, the National Health and Medical Research Council, says there should be a five-year moratorium on any clinical research into animal-to-human whole organ transplants in Australia.

Council has also ruled that non-human primates (eg baboons) should never be considered as source animals for any future clinical trials of animal-to-human transplantation.

The NHMRC reached these decisions after receiving a report from its Xenotransplantation Working Party and carefully considering issues surrounding animal-to-human transplantation.

It took into account community concerns raised during two rounds of national consultation, including fear of new infectious diseases transferring from animals to humans and ethical and social concerns about the use and welfare of animals.

Council wants more time to consider issues surrounding animal cellular therapies(1) and animal external therapies(2) that have a lower potential risk of infection and higher expected benefit to humans than animal organ transplants. In addition, Council will further consider its role in promoting human organ and tissue donation in Australia.

  1. animal cellular therapies are procedures in which animal cells are transplanted or implanted into a human patient to compensate for deficient functioning of the patient’s own cells (eg pancreatic islet cells to treat people with diabetes, or brain cells to people with Parkinson’s disease).
  2. animal external therapies are a range of procedures involving contact between human and animal cells/ tissues outside of the body of the patient. For example, cells or fluids from the patient perfused through animal cells and returned to the patient (eg to treat patients with liver failure), or, human cells or tissue pieces cultured with animal cells in the laboratory in order to obtain a larger supply of human cells or tissue for transplantation (eg to grow skin grafts for burns victims).


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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