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The Xeno Experiments Controversy in Britain: The Leaked Documents
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In May 2000 a stack of internal documents was leaked to Uncaged Campaigns, a British animal rights group. It documented experiments financed by Imutran, a leading xenotransplant research company, and conducted by Huntingdon Life Sciences in Cambridgeshire, England. The experiments involved transplanting genetically modified pig organs into monkeys and baboons. These experiments are also being done in U.S. research and medical centers.

The documents covered the log of experiments over several years in the late 1990s. Over 420 monkeys and nearly 50 baboons died in the tests. The average survival time was 13 days.

Uncaged published the documents on the Internet along with a summary report on them, "Diaries of Despair," and called on the British government to halt xenotransplantation research and set up an independent judicial inquiry. Not long after, Uncaged's material was removed from the Internet. Imutran, citing breach of confidentiality and copyright violation, got a British court order prohibiting Uncaged from further publishing or discussing the documents.

Britain's Daily Express newspaper also received copies of the documents and wrote a scathing article in September 2000 reporting that the documents showed days or weeks of animal suffering, incompetence in the conduct of the experiments and far less success with the experiments than was claimed by Imutran. According to the Express, "[Imutran] has given a highly selective account of its achievements."

Responding to the furor, Imutran said the animals don't suffer and that the Daily Express report was misleading. The British court order also forbids any further publication or reporting on the documents by the newspaper.

The Log of Baboon X201M

These are the lab records on Baboon X201M during the 39 days it survived after having a pig heart transplant as part of xenotransplantat experiments being funded by imutran and carried out at the Huntingdon Life Sciences animal research laboratory in Britain. These records were given to FRONTLINE by an American source.

X201M was one of the animals which the Daily Express focused on in its report (it's pictured at the top of this page.) X201M survived 39 days after its own heart had been removed and replaced with one from a genetically modified pig. The Daily Express noted that in Imutran's published paper to the Journal of Heart and Lung Transplantation, Imutran showcased X201M as an example of the progress it was making in pig-to-primate transplants. Imutran stated in its paper: "Throughout the first 38 post-transplont days the baboon was active and energetic, moving freely about his enclosure."

But the Express said that Imutran's log on Baboon X201M contradicted this description. [Editor's Note: the log on X201M was given to FRONTLINE by an American source.] The log, said the Express, showed suffering and debilitation of X201M's condition after receiving the pig's heart. The Express also pointed out that Imutran failed to mention in its published data that X201M's pig heart had grown to three times its weight by the time the baboon was killed.

In response Imutran defended its description of X201M, telling the Express: "We have video recordings made late in the animal's post-operative course at 25 days and 35. This footage shows an active and energetic animal, climbing in its enclosure."

Before Imutran won the court injunction prohibiting publication of its internal documents, the Imutran documents and Uncaged's report, "Diaries of Despair," were downloaded on computers in New Zealand, North America, Europe and elsewhere.

Researching this story, FRONTLINE did an Internet search and, after typing in "Diaries of Despair," found one of the sites which had downloaded Uncaged's report and the documents. The links to Imutran's documents were dead, but the site offered pages from Uncaged's report which include parts of Imutran's logs on three baboons who each had a pig's heart implanted into the neck or abdomen. The logs detail their condition in the days or weeks following the procedure.

Read the 9/22/00 Daily Express follow-up article on its original story on the Imutran documents.

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