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    Rights: University of Waikato
    Published 9 November 2011 Referencing Hub media

    At LCT, they have a world-leading molecular diagnostics lab. Molecular diagnostics is the use of DNARNA or proteins to test for disease. Staff in the lab monitor samples from donor pigs, pig cell products and transplant recipients for pathogens that may be transmitted from pigs to humans including viruses such as porcine endogenous retrovirus (PERV), hepatitis E, herpes virus and circovirus.


    Olga Garkavenko (Living Cell Technologies)
    Our laboratory is the very first laboratory in the xenovirology field which is accredited as a medical molecular diagnostic laboratory.

    Our main task is to ensure the safety of the tissue that is transplanted from animals to humans and also to follow up our patients to make sure that they did not acquire any silent infection or any unknown pathogens from our pigs.

    So we started as a research laboratory, because in 1997, when the xenotransplantation programme started, [there] was very little or no data on pig pathogens that can be potentially dangerous for humans, so we had to start our xenotransplantation project with searching for suitable donor herd and suitable in terms of safety for potential recipients.

    So our first step in developing molecular diagnostics was to screen different and representative pig herds in New Zealand, identify their viral and microbiological profile, decide what pathogens are relevant to xenotransplantation, for instance: Are they present in the particular herd? Can they be transmitted to humans? Can they cause disease in humans?

    We’re right now screening for almost 25 pathogens on a regular basis, it’s every fourth month a year, and we also screen every individual pig rather than doing a selective pig screening. And this is because we’re dealing with a medical grade material and medical grade animals, which means we have to be much more rigorous and search for pathogens, viruses, for instance, that probably do not cause any disease in animals but potentially can be dangerous for people.

    Michael Helyer
    PRN Films
    Michael Trotter, Rare Breeds Conservation Society