Breaking News
July 19, 2018 - Compounds found in green tea and wine may block formation of toxic metabolites
July 19, 2018 - Gene regulator associated with protein pileup in exfoliation glaucoma
July 19, 2018 - Trump administration summons immigrant infants
July 19, 2018 - FDA grants approval for first breast cancer drug through ‘Real-Time Oncology Review’
July 19, 2018 - Five tips for men seeking plastic surgery
July 19, 2018 - Researchers discover the reasons why some people get dizzy when hearing certain sounds
July 19, 2018 - Research project investigates snake venom treatment as antibiotic alternative for eye infections
July 19, 2018 - Melanoma could soon be detected using a blood test
July 19, 2018 - Exposure to bright light may have big impact on sleep-related behavior in children
July 19, 2018 - Deleting single gene in gut bacteria affects metabolism, reduces weight gain in mice
July 19, 2018 - New proteomics studies help gain more insights into Alzheimer’s, cancer and listeriosis
July 19, 2018 - Study finds major discrepancies in prescription drug labeling pregnancy information across four countries
July 19, 2018 - Cellectar’s CLR 131 Receives FDA Orphan Drug Designation for Treatment of Ewing’s Sarcoma
July 19, 2018 - Watching the immune system in action reveals what happens when things goes wrong
July 19, 2018 - Increasing blood sugar levels improves memory and performance in older adults
July 19, 2018 - Connection between self-regulation and obesity appears to be different for girls and boys
July 19, 2018 - Researchers develop new, less destructive method for whitening teeth
July 19, 2018 - Revving up innate control of viral infection requires a three-cell ignition
July 19, 2018 - Inaccurate direct-to-consumer raw genetic data can harm patients, new research suggests
July 19, 2018 - Weight loss surgery is effective under the right situations
July 19, 2018 - BioTek awarded patent for autofocus feature on microplate reader
July 19, 2018 - Low-carb diets reduce stiffness of arteries in women and promote weight loss in men
July 19, 2018 - New review examines cannabinoids’ potential for direct treatment of cancer
July 19, 2018 - Allergic responses may help protect the skin against cancer, research suggests
July 19, 2018 - Inappropriate Prescribing of Abx High in Urgent Care Centers
July 19, 2018 - Many at risk for HIV despite lifesaving pill
July 19, 2018 - Tips for doctors and parents on the harms of marijuana use for teens
July 18, 2018 - Researchers detect presence of IgE antibodies after kidney transplantation
July 18, 2018 - New technique allows researchers to create large scale, personalized bone grafts
July 18, 2018 - Smoking May Boost Atrial Fibrillation Risk
July 18, 2018 - Genome editing method targets AIDS virus
July 18, 2018 - These things matter: Medical complications are not inevitable, a physician writes
July 18, 2018 - Cognitive functions often wilt as water departs the body, shows study
July 18, 2018 - Origins of bread found 14,400 years ago in Jordan
July 18, 2018 - Low-dose ketamine found to be as effective as opioids for treating acute pain
July 18, 2018 - Novel bioengineering technique could help repair bone defects
July 18, 2018 - Researchers identify new potential target protein for colon cancer
July 18, 2018 - Air pollution contributes significantly to diabetes globally
July 18, 2018 - Cell membrane’s importance offers new strategy to fight infections
July 18, 2018 - Researchers identify key protein involved in irregular brain cell activity
July 18, 2018 - 3D modeling of drug resistance could lead to more effective cancer treatment
July 18, 2018 - Hunger hormones could be key to new treatments for drug, alcohol addiction
July 18, 2018 - Nitrate-cured meats may contribute to mania, study finds
July 18, 2018 - Why men may recover more quickly from influenza infections than women
July 18, 2018 - Study finds discharge against medical advice as predictor of readmissions in heart attack patients
July 18, 2018 - KemPharm Announces Top Line Results from KP415.E01 Efficacy and Safety Trial in Children With ADHD
July 18, 2018 - Self-control and obesity: Gender matters in children
July 18, 2018 - Bioengineers, diabetes researchers convene to discuss future concepts for precision medicine
July 18, 2018 - New findings support more conservative use of ED neuroimaging for non-index seizures
July 18, 2018 - Practicing yoga benefits pregnant women, study suggests
July 18, 2018 - New strategy may lead to more accurate breast cancer diagnoses
July 18, 2018 - FDA Approves Symtuza (D/C/F/TAF), the First and Only Complete Darunavir-Based Single-Tablet Regimen for the Treatment of HIV-1 Infection
July 18, 2018 - New guide helps hospitals pick right partner to handle hospitalist services
July 18, 2018 - Deep data dive helps predict cerebral palsy
July 18, 2018 - Stricter firearm legislation associated with reduced murder and suicide rates
July 18, 2018 - Physical and sexual abuse in childhood associated with endometriosis risk
July 18, 2018 - Omega 3 supplements do not reduce risk of heart disease, stroke or death
July 18, 2018 - GSA’s new publication provides support for safe use of OTC analgesics by older adults
July 18, 2018 - Researchers receive grant from U.S. Department of Education to study children with HFASD
July 18, 2018 - Early childhood adversity increases sensitivity of the body’s immune response to cocaine
July 18, 2018 - Parental incarceration affects health behaviors of children in adulthood
July 18, 2018 - Researchers find that yellow fever and Asian tiger mosquitoes can carry new virus
July 18, 2018 - Two Regimens Fail to Stop Declines in β-Cell Function
July 18, 2018 - Researchers apply computing power to track the spread of cancer
July 18, 2018 - Olfactory receptors play pathophysiological role in all organs than merely smell perception
July 18, 2018 - Fish consumption associated with lower risk of early death
July 18, 2018 - MR Solutions’ 7T MRI imaging system installed at University of Hawaii
July 18, 2018 - Humorous ads screened around World Cup game achieve higher biometric response than sporty ads
July 18, 2018 - New study demonstrates little effect of hormone therapy on artery thickness
July 18, 2018 - A 3-Pronged Plan to Cut Type 2 Diabetes Risk
July 18, 2018 - New clues to sepsis may speed diagnosis
July 18, 2018 - Stars of Stanford Medicine: Improving cardiovascular health in Africa and beyond
July 18, 2018 - Heart attack risk continues to increase among pregnant women, study finds
July 18, 2018 - Few tips to help avoid sunburns in summer
July 18, 2018 - High-fat diet and systemic inflammation contribute to progression of prostate cancer
July 18, 2018 - Researchers develop 3D map of gene interactions that play key role in heart disease
July 18, 2018 - Conservative management of lung subsolid nodules reduces overtreatment and unnecessary surgery
July 18, 2018 - Report warns of dog illness that can spread to owners
July 18, 2018 - A winning essayist’s tips for keeping track of scientific facts
July 18, 2018 - Researchers seek to understand role of APOE mutation in Alzheimer’s disease
Brains, eyes, testes: off-limits for transplants?

Brains, eyes, testes: off-limits for transplants?

image_pdfDownload PDFimage_print
Since the world’s first successful organ transplant in 1954—a kidney—the discipline has advanced to include many other organs, but some still remain off-limits

Since the world’s first successful organ transplant in 1954—a kidney—the discipline has advanced to the point where a wounded soldier could have his penis and scrotum replaced in a groundbreaking operation last month.

A Frenchman recently became the first person to receive a second face transplant after the first failed, and another made history by regrowing skin lost over 95 percent of his body, thanks to a graft from his twin brother.

Transplants are no longer limited to the vital organs: heart, liver, orlungs. Nowadays, people can get a new hand… or even a uterus.

But some organs remain off-limits. For now.

Brain swap

Topping the list, brain transplants are a long way off, for both technical and ethical reasons, experts say.

“The most challenging organ to transplant is anything related to the nervous system, as we do not have effective techniques for nerve growth/regeneration,” explained transplant surgeon David Nasralla, of the University of Oxford.

“For this reason, eye and brain transplants are currently beyond the scope of modern medicine,” he told AFP.

Nerves carry messages through the body in the form of electrochemical pulses flitting between the brain and spinal cord, muscles and other organs.

An Italian-Chinese surgical duo recently set the science world aflutter by announcing they planned to remove a person’s head and attach it to a decapitated donor body in what would be the first such procedure.

There is a high likelihood, observers say, that the patient will die.

Jerome Hamon is the first man to have received two face transplants, a feat carried out in Paris

Many doubt it is possible to connect the nerve fibres of two spinal cords.

Above all else, the undertaking raises troubling moral questions, including a very basic one: What constitutes a person? A brain alone?

The patient, suggested a recent article in the journal Surgical Neurology International, will likely struggle with the concept of “human identity”.

“Even memories of the role the former body played in the creation of the subject’s identity would encounter possible conflict with a new donor-given body,” wrote bio-ethicists Anto Cartolovni and Antonio Spagnolo.

“Similar issues were also seen in cases of face and hand transplants. This confusion to the person’s psychological state could possibly lead to serious psychological problems, namely insanity and finally death.”

Fancy a pig heart?

Given the dire shortage of donor organs, the use of animal hearts, lungs or livers to save human lives has long been a holy grail of medical science.

But organ rejection has stood stubbornly in the way of inter-species “xenotransplants”.

“It was tried in the 50s and 60s, with kidneys from chimpanzees, for example. But organ failure set in immediately, within days. They could not break through the species barrier,” said Olivier Bastien, of France’s biomedicine agency.

This is changing as scientists learn to modify the genes that prompt the immune system to attack intruder germs, but also foreign tissue perceived as a threat.

Researchers’ focus is to modify the genes of donor animals so their organs will resist the human immune response, while also preventing the transfer of animal diseases.

Franck Dufourmantelle (R), 34, received skin grafts from his twin brother Eric after suffering burns to 95 percent of his body

Animal welfare is an added concern.

“Up to what point should we undermine the animal’s immune system”, asks Bastien—potentially exposing it to disease and suffering so we can harvest its organs?

Are there limits?

Few organs remain technically non-transplantable. But two are excluded, for now, due to their raising of ethical eyebrows—the testes and ovaries.

“A testicle transplant would amount to assisted reproduction in disguise,” said Bastien.

One question is this: If the recipient fathers children with his new sperm-producing testicles, whose offspring are they—his, or the donor’s?

The same issue arises in the case of a head transplant onto a male body.

A paper last year in the Journal of Medical Ethics urged a rethink of risk-benefit ratio of non life-saving organ transplants.

“The greatest risk transplant recipients face comes from the powerful but noxious agents, immunosuppressives, which must be used to keep transplanted organs from being rejected,” wrote Arthur Caplan and Duncan Purves.

A long list of possible side effects—including cancer—can be justified for a heart or lung transplant, they argued, but possibly less so for a new face, hand or penis.

“The shift away from saving lives to seeking to make them better requires a shift in the ethical thinking that has long formed the foundation of organ transplantation,” the duo argued.


Explore further:
Transplanted livers help body defend against organ rejection, study finds

Journal reference:
Journal of Medical Ethics

About author

Related Articles