• Kyodo

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The faculty of medicine at Kyushu University has approved guidelines for using animal cells in an artificial liver for humans, the university said Tuesday.

The guidelines for so-called xenotransplantations, the first of their kind in this country, were compiled after Keizo Sugimachi, professor of surgery at the university, submitted a proposal for the clinical application of an artificial liver that utilizes pig cells.

The biggest obstacle is preventing viral infections being transferred from the pig cells to humans, officials said.

The university added it has postponed a decision on approval of the clinical application, saying additional data on how to breed uninfected pigs is necessary.

Sugimachi had planned to temporarily utilize the artificial liver externally before human organ transplants or during rehabilitation for patients suffering from fulminant hepatitis.

The artificial liver designed by Sugimachi is a tube filled with cultured pig liver cells through which toxic substances in human blood, including ammonia, would be removed.

The guidelines compiled by a team of six doctors at the university headed by Yusuke Yanagi, professor of virology, point out that xenotransplantation carries the risk of spreading new viral infections or creating new disease agents.

It is unknown what effects some viruses in animal cells can have on human beings. Experts have warned that some deadly viruses such as the Ebola virus and AIDS started when viruses originating in animals spread to humans.

In order to prevent and limit such dangers, the guidelines stipulate that in such xenotransplantations, only animals bred at special facilities that can control such infections should be used.

It also said doctors should make sure that patients and their families fully understand the risks, and that the doctors monitor the patients and their families to watch for possible infections from animals.

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