Pig livers to be used for temporary dialysis

Scientists in Britain think they've found a way to overcome the human body's rejection of transplanted organs. The British company Imutran is going to use genetically modified pig livers as a temporary dialysis machine for patients awaiting a human organ.

Imutran says that genetically altering the livers should sustain the patient until a human liver can be found for transplantation.

The company says this interim measure is a way to help improve the odds for people on transplant waiting lists. Every year, thousands of people die waiting for transplants.

Imutran's announcement comes at the same time as the British government unveiled measures to tighten the regulation of organ transplants from animals to humans. Health Secretary Frank Dobson said the new measures were meant to ensure the safe development of new technology for xeno-transplantation, the use of organs, tissues or cells from a different species.

"Trials in xeno-transplantation involving humans will only be allowed to take place if and when we are fully satisfied that the risks associated with such procedures are acceptable, taking account of all the available evidence at the time," says Dobson.

Dobson says a code of practice for animal welfare will be developed as well as surveillance procedures for any patients who receive animal tissue.