Staggering increase in number of animals used in GM experiments
The RSPCA has called for
the use of GM animals to be critically reviewed after a staggering increase
in the numbers used in scientific research. Home Office statistics on animal
experimentation in the UK in 1999 show a massive rise of 63,000 to 511,000
procedures involving genetic modification. The RSPCA is concerned about
both the number of animals used and the harm caused to them.
Summary: A British animal welfare group said on Tuesday it had exposed a cruel and secretive trade in endangered baboons which were being sold from Tanzania to research organizations in the United States for use in xenotransplant experiments where they were transplanted with pig organs -- some of which contained human genes.
The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV), said hundreds of Olive Baboons were being trapped and held for weeks in appalling conditions with little, if any, food or water, and warned that the trade was posing a threat to the primates' future.
The U.N. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) classes Olive Baboons as potentially in danger of extinction and has strict regulations governing their trade and shipment.
No baboon had ever survived a xenotransplant experiment.
SCIENTISTS have successfully produced an embryonic pig-human hybrid. Human DNA was inserted into pig cells which became tiny embryos. The researchers have not revealed what happened to them, but suggest they could have been grown further by being implanted into a womb - and that either a pig or a human mother would have been suitable. The intentions of the researchers are not made clear in an application they have submitted to the European Patent Office. However, such embryos would be ideal for research into therapeutic cloning, when cells are cloned, grown into tissues such as nerve cells and then used to treat a patient.
The researchers, from Stem Cell Sciences in Australia and Biotransplant
in America, both big players in the biotechnology industry, took a cell
from a human foetus, extracted the nucleus and then inserted it into a
pig's egg cell. Two embryos were grown to the 32-cell stage, which took
a week. Experts in medical ethics are deeply concerned about the patent
application, which has a strong chance of being granted. They say the research
exploits loopholes in European law. It is not illegal because the embryo
is not technically human. Dr Richard Nicholson, editor of the Bulletin
of Medical Ethics, said: "This kind of research depends on devaluing human
beings." Nobody knows whether the hybrid embryos could have be-come
living beings. They would be much more human than pig because about 97%
of DNA is in the nucleus, which was human. There would, however, be some
effect from the 3% of DNA from the pig.
BEIJING, December 24 (Xinhuanet) -- Chinese scientists have made a breakthrough
in transgene fields by creating sheep with human genes, according to a
press conference held in Beijing Sunday. The three sheep, two male and
one female, are now living in the Shunyi county in Beijing, said scientists
from the China Agricultural University. The transgenic sheep were
created through the "sheep mammary bio-reactor" project, which integrated
some human genes with the embryo of a sheep. The project started in 1998.
Four transgenic sheep were born this June, but one female died three days
A U.S. biotech company plans to genetically engineer a chicken with an extra-large breast which will yield more meat, and then insert a DNA tag to stop anyone breeding without permission. If successful, AviGenicswould be one of the first to put GM meat on US supermarket shelves, opening up new tensions with Europe over genetic engineering in food. AviGenics, based on the campus of the University of Georgia, is already one of three US companies racing to turn poultry into drugs factories - adding human genes to create "transgenic" birds, which would then produce human proteins such as insulin in their egg whites. AviGenics claims to have already created transgenic roosters that have passed on the human gene for a substance called alpha interferon, used to treat hepatitis and certain cancers. The company hopes to use the same technology to create a chicken for everyday eating.
Instead of adding human genes to make birds lay drug-rich eggs, genes
would be added, or chicken genes removed, to give the birds bigger breast
muscles, faster growing rates or greater disease resistance. To keep proprietorial
control over these valuable new animals, AviGenics is working on a novel
kind of trademark, a DNA sequence which would be introduced into the chicken's
genes and handed on to the bird's offspring.
Transplanting animal organs into humans could trigger a global pandemic
of a deadly new disease. A new study by British scientists has found that
cancer-causing retroviruses are spread relatively easily between different
creatures in the wild. The discovery, outlined last week by the Natural
Environment Research Council, will reinforce concerns raised by experiments
which recently revealed that pig hearts and kidneys carry potentially deadly
animal retroviruses, dashing hopes that animals could one day supply spare
parts for human surgery... the study by biologists Michael Tristem and
Joanne Martin of Imperial College, London, which focused on murine leukaemia
viruses, close relatives of the cancer retroviruses that are known to infect
pigs. Traces of virus DNA were found in a range of mammalian species in
the wild, suggesting that pig retroviruses are capable of infecting other
animals - including humans - with relative ease.
A man who received a baboon liver in an operation hailed as a breakthrough
contracted a virus thought to only affect the animal. This is a major setback
for doctors who hope that animal to human transplantation is the answer
to donor organ shortages. The man, a 35-year-old HIV patient, died from
liver disease just two months after the transplant. But tests after his
death revealed that a herpes virus known as cytomegalovirus (CMV) - which
is present in virtually all wild baboons - had crossed the species barrier.
for Responsible Transplantation
short introduction to the range of concerns about xenotransplantation
Campaign for Responsible Transplantation
Xenotransplantation, attempted since 1905, is marred by a history of failures and intense human and animal suffering. But the prospect of commercializing the technology has created huge financial incentives for biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies who have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in xenotransplantation. The desire to gain a return on such large investments has led many companies to make exaggerated claims about the alleged merits of the technology. CRT believes that these claims are baseless and that, in fact, the technology is dangerous, expensive, inhumane, and unnecessary, and should therefore be banned.
How Bad Science and Big Business Put the World at Risk from Viral Pandemics
ISIS Report by Prof Jo Cummins and Dr Mae-wan Ho
Xenotransplantation is a multi-billion dollar business venture built on the anticipated sale of patented techniques and organs, as well as drugs to overcome organ-rejection. It has received strong criticism and opposition from scientists warning of the risks of new viruses crossing from animal organs to human subjects and from there to infect the population at large. But regulators are adopting a permissive attitude for clinical trials to go ahead... This audit exposes the shoddy science that puts the world at risk of viral pandemics for the sake of corporate profit, and concludes that xenotranplantation shouldnot be allowed to continue in any form.
Campaigns from an animal welfare perspective:
- British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection has animal genetics
reports on all the following available for download as pdf files:
Insight into Animal Genetic Engineering
Insight into Xenotransplantation
Insight into Animal Patenting
Insight into Gene Pharming
Aid has an 'A-Z' of short articles including:
Genetically modified food
Genetic engineering of animals
in World Farming has an introductory animal genetic engineering
section. You can download their full report as a pdf:
Farm Animal Genetic Engineering