LORD Winston, the fertility expert and Labour peer, is to begin breeding genetically modified pigs in the hope of providing organs for transplant to humans, it was reported yesterday.
Scientists in London and California have begun experiments to find a solution to record waits for organ transplants. In Britain around 8,000 patients are on waiting lists.
"People needing a new heart or liver are waiting for someone else to die – usually a violent death in a traffic accident," Lord Winston wrote in a Sunday newspaper.
Lord Winston, who heads the Institute of Reproductive and Developmental Biology at London's Hammersmith Hospital, expects the technique to provide a solution to the shortage of organs within ten years.
The scientists are introducing human genes into the animals to reduce the chances of the organs being rejected by patients' bodies.
Early attempts to transplant animal organs were abandoned because the tissue was rejected and because of fears that animal viruses would spread to humans. Enthusiasm for the procedure waned in the late 1990s after patient deaths.
Lord Winston says his method could mean hundreds of genetically modified pigs being reared. Organs could be taken from pigs as young as a year.
It was reported yesterday that the work would be done in Missouri, in the United States, because of difficulties with funding and regulations in Britain.
"Our US friends will benefit from our technology and yet another British innovation will be jeopardised," Lord Winston said.