To minimise the risk of disease transmission from pigs to humans, LCT uses a unique breed of pigs as the source of cells for their pig cell transplants. The pigs come from the isolated environment on the subantarctic Auckland Islands and are free of diseases commonly seen in the domestic pig herd.
LCT houses the pigs in a specially designed barrier facility that prevents entry of disease-causing pathogens, such as viruses and. The herd is designated pathogen-free and tested regularly to ensure they remain so.
Isobel Cooper (
The LCT pigs came originally from the Auckland Islands. This is a small group of subantarctic islands off the southern coast of New Zealand, about a third of the way to Antarctica. And the pigs were originally put there by sailors as a food source for other sailors that might get shipwrecked. The original pigs that were put on the islands were a mixture of breeds, so ultimately, they bred and became a breed in their own right.
They were brought to New Zealand from the Auckland Islands by the Rare Breeds Trust that had heard about them, and the Department of Conservation felt they wanted to eradicate the pigs from the Auckland Islands, because when they survive there, they eat some of the rare herbs on the islands. So the Rare Breeds Trust decided that they would rescue some of these pigs and bring them back to New Zealand to carry on the breed. Once they were back here, that’s when LCT tested them and found out that they were extremely rare, as in they’re very, very clean with none of the modern pig viruses. On the Auckland Islands, it’s almost like being in a natural pathogen-free facility because they’re so isolated. It’s so cold, not many viruses survive anyway, and no one really wants to go there.
We keep them in special facilities. They stay inside all the time. Their air is filtered so that it is totally clean and. All of their feed and bedding is sterilised, and even the staff shower and wear sterile clothing when they go in there.
To make sure that we know that they’re remaining clean, we take regular blood samples and faecal samples from the pigs, and a team of microbiologists at LCT test those to make sure that they are still clean.
Wreck of Grafton, Epigwaitt, Auckland Islands. 1888. Dougall, William, Burton Brothers. Reproduced courtesy of Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
Tui De Roy, Roving Tortise Worldwide Nature Photography
Dave Matheson & Michael Willis, Rare Breeds Conservation Society
Nyla Strachan, Department of Conservation