Xenotransplantation

Humans with lungs from a pig? What about a heart? The truth is, animal to human organ transplant are not a distant reality. The process is called xenotransplantation. The Telegraph article reads, “The breakthrough means that the animals, which are genetically and physically close to humans, could be genetically changed so that the human body does not reject their organs. Once created, the “donor strain” should be able to reproduce normally, producing an almost limitless and cheap supply of organs”. My first thought? No thanks. The thought seems “un-natural” to me. Don’t worry, I know this “feeling” has no scientific weight. Yet, the counter argument is hard to argue. Simply put, these animal organs could potentially save thousands of lives. The question becomes, would I want a pig to save my life?

If I were diagnosed with a rare disease and in need of an organ transplant, let’s say a heart, would I accept an organ from a pig? My first reaction is no. However, would I sacrifice my life because of an “un-natural” feeling? Probably not. I keep beginning to type “if my life depended on it, I would accept a pig…” Then I immediately delete the sentence. I’ve done this about four times now. I want to say yes. I clearly do not want to die. However, there’s something holding me back from finishing that sentence. I have a serious case of heeby-jeebies. However, maybe this is simply because this concept is not normatized in our society. It wasn’t too long ago that people shivered at the concept of in-vitro. The reality of Brave New World seemed distant. However, the concept has now become a social norm. I can honestly say, without the slightest hesitation,  that I would undergo in-vitro if I needed to. I question if I could ever feel such certainty with xenotransplantation. Would you take an organ from a pig?

The phrase “limitless and cheap supply of organs” turns the mass of tissues into a commodity. When I think limitless and cheap, organs are not the first thing to come to mind. Perhaps pigs would be known just as well for their organs as they are for their bacon.  What would happen if this were in fact the case? I think society would develop a new socially rejected counter culture. I think those with animal organ’s would be stigmatized as “weird” and “non-human.” I can envision a new breed of  genetic discrimination. Would those with animal organs feel less human? Would others treat them as less human? Would Dr. Moreau’s fears become actualized? Would we regress into an animalistic state? Would be human chimeras?  We might find out sooner than we think.

Zoe

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~ by sawkazm on March 2, 2010.

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