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Wednesday, 13 March, 2002, 07:46 GMT
Cook Islands set to back pig transplants
Pig viruses carry unknown risks to people
test hello test
Richard Black
BBC science correspondent
The government of the Cook Islands has said it will probably approve a proposal by a New Zealand biotechnology company to run trials of an experimental diabetes treatment which is banned in many Western countries.

The treatment involves transplanting cells from pigs into humans. The cells should start making insulin, curing the diabetes.

Pig cell transplant research is banned in much of the West because scientists believe there is a risk of pig viruses entering the human population.

Meanwhile the New Zealand Health Ministry has released documents detailing why it turned down an application by the company, Diatranz, to run a similar trial in New Zealand.

The Cook Islands' Government of the Cook Islands says it expects to approve the proposed trial within a couple of weeks.

'Inadequate safeguards'

Several Western experts have criticised the plan, saying ethical supervision of such a trial would be inadequate in a developing country, and the facilities needed to monitor patients for infection do not exist.

Reports from the Cook Islands say the government has been offered a share in Diatranz's profits if the treatment is shown to work and then marketed globally.

Last year Diatranz applied to run a similar trial of its experimental treatment in New Zealand, but was turned down by a government advisory committee.

Details of the committee's reasoning have now been released - it says Diatranz could not prove the treatment actually worked in the animals they had tested it on, and its proposals for consulting people taking part in the trial fell short of international standards.

Last week the International Xenotransplantation Association, which brings together doctors and scientists working in the field, accused Diatranz of trying to evade safeguards by taking its research to the Cook Islands.

The BBC's Richard Black
"There are potential hazards"
See also:

03 Jan 02 | Sci/Tech
Animal transplants: A step closer?
03 Jan 02 | Sci/Tech
Pig cloning race hots up
02 Jan 02 | Sci/Tech
New pig clones born
09 May 01 | Sci/Tech
Australian researchers clone pig
17 Jun 01 | Health
'An end to insulin jabs'
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