Lewis Smith, Science Reporter
Organs from pigs could be widely available for transplanting into patients in a decade, Lord Winston said yesterday.
The first organs suitable for transplanting, most likely kidneys, are expected to be ready within three years and, if tests are successful, their use could be widespread by 2018.
Professor Winston, of Imperial College, London, and his collaborator, Carol Readhead, of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, are leading research into transplanting animal organs into people.
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Human immune systems are quick to react to “foreign bodies” but the scientists are confident that they are close to modifying the genetic make-up of pigs to “humanise” their organs and make animal-to-human transplants possible.
Dr Readhead said it was comparatively easy to bring about such genetic modification in mice, but the process is much harder in pigs and other large animals.
He said that transplants were one of several potential benefits from the research. Others include enabling drugs which today have to be tested on people during late development phases to be tested on animals, avoiding reactions such as that suffered during trials at Northwick Park