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Newsletter – February 2012

A new theme about xenotransplantation and organ donation has just been published on the Hub. This theme provides background information supporting our latest focus story Pig cell transplants, published in November 2011. Together, these new resources offer a rich context for exploring related ethical issues with your students.

Xenotransplantation and organ donation – new theme

There is a worldwide shortage of deceased organ donors. In this theme, we explore ways of increasing the availability of cells, tissues and organs for transplants.

Xenotransplantation – Information sheet
Xenotransplantation is when living cells, tissues or organs are transplanted between species. To be successful in humans, xenotransplants must overcome issues of transplant rejection, cross-species infection and ethics.

History of xenotransplantation – Information sheet
Xenotransplantation was attempted unsuccessfully in the early 1900s. Several key research developments over the last 100 years now mean that the first xenotransplant treatments could be available soon.

Ethics of xenotransplantation – Information sheet
Xenotransplantation entails transplanting cells or organs (for example, pancreatic cells, a heart or a kidney) from an individual of one species into an individual of another species.

Ethics of organ donation – Information sheet
Worldwide, there are approximately 150,000 people waiting for an organ transplant at any one time – 400 of them are in New Zealand. Each year, many thousands of people die who would have lived had they received a transplant.

Pig cell transplants – focus story

Living Cell Technologies (LCT) is a New Zealand company at the forefront of xenotransplantation research. In this focus story, explore why and how they’re using pig cells to treat disease in humans.

Diabetes and pig cell transplants – Information sheet
Living Cell Technologies is developing live pig cell transplants to treat type 1 diabetes. Cell transplants should give diabetics better blood sugar control, thus reducing health complications and saving on treatment costs.

Ethics of pig cell transplants – Information sheet
Pig cell transplants raise ethical issues, such as whether it is right to use animals to benefit humans and what impact an individual’s right to treatment may have on the wider community.

Teaching ideas

Xenotransplantation raises a number of ethical issues, and many people are opposed to the practice. What are the risks and benefits? What are the views expressed by different groups of people and why? What do your students think?

Ethics and pig cell transplants – Student activity
In this activity, students use role-playing to explore different stakeholders’ perspectives on the issue of using pig cells to treat type 1 diabetes. Transplanting pig cells into humans is a type of xenotransplantation, which raises ethical issues about animal welfare, individual rights and risk of spreading disease.

Using ethical frameworks in the classroom – Information sheet
Ethical frameworks provide a structured approach to exploring controversial issues with students. This information sheet describes five commonly used ethical frameworks and questions to help scaffold student thinking. It also links to other resources on the Hub that provide support and guidance for teaching ethical thinking.

News and events   

Keep up to date with the latest biotechnology news, events and radio broadcasts.

Bioplastic products unveiled in Rotorua – News item
Bioplastics products made from renewable sources, such as plants or bacteria, and an alternative to fossil-fuel plastics derived from petroleum were unveiled at a bioplastics workshop in Rotorua in October 2011.

NZ-made skin substitutes for wounds to launch in US – News item
Lower Hutt-based biotech company Mesynthes will be launching its regenerative tissue substitute on the US market later in 2011. The company’s Endoform products are a range of biomaterials for wound and tissue repair.

Ageing wine – RNZ audio
Waikato University scientists have developed a machine that can age wine within minutes by exposing it to an electric field.

Bioplastics – RNZ audio
New bioplastic materials are being developed at Scion in Rotorua, including some that incorporate wood.

More news and events

Contact us

We’d like to hear from you if you’re using Hub resources in the classroom or if you’re interested in helping us develop new resources. Please email enquiries@biotechlearn.org.nz, and we’ll be in touch.

Best wishes
The Biotechnology Learning Hub team


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