Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Pig cell transplants into monkeys 'safe and effective'

New Zealand biotech company Living Cell Technologies Ltd (LCT) says it has successfully completed six months of monkey trials to show the safety of using pig cells in another species.

The company, listed on the Australian stock exchange, has been testing its product for the treatment of diabetes, developed when it was operating in New Zealand as Diatranz.

American medical regulators require controlled safety and efficacy studies before allowing trials in humans with type 1 diabetes.

In New Zealand, a Government law amendment which requires approval by the health minister to approve any animal-to-human transplant clinical trials, is set to expire in June.

LCT has three products under development - NeurotrophinCell for Huntington's, Fac8Cell for haemophilia and DiaBCell (encapsulated living islet cells) for diabetes.

Six New Zealanders were injected with pig islet cells in the mid-1990s as part of a clinical trial, but fears arose in medical circles that a pig virus might cross species to infect people.

Diatranz failed to get approval from New Zealand's health ministry to continue the clinical trials of its novel technique for transplanting insulin-producing pig cells into people with diabetes, a form of xenotransplantation

The Cook Islands also refused permission for a trial there, after New Zealand Health Minister Annette King said the ministry was reviewing the safety of all transplants of animal cells into humans.

So Diatranz moved to Australia and floated on the stock exchange as LCT last year, with Diatranz founder Professor Robert Elliott as its chairman.

Story here.

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