Tag: artificial organs

Bioethics Blogs

“And Death Shall Be No More”

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

Two years after John Donne’s death, the Holy Sonnets were published. In Sonnet 10, Donne speaks about the end of death: “Death, thou shalt die.” Although a metaphorical conceit referring to eternal life in heaven, the poem takes on new meaning in the age of regenerative medicine.

Since the 1968 ad hoc Harvard committee on defining death, brain death has been defined as the “irreversible loss of all functions of the brain, including the brainstem.” If a new project is successful that definition may have to be revised or deleted.

Bioquark (US) and Revita Life Sciences (India) have received human subjects approval from the NIH to reverse brain death and regenerate the brains of 20 patients. As the Revita website says, “Dead Man Walking. US-INDIA Project could revive brain dead patients. A team of doctors from India and the US are working on an ambitious project to infuse life into those deemed brain dead. The Multi-Modality Approach to reverse braindeath [sic] could be the path to a medical break through.” The public misunderstanding about brain death (that it is indeed death) has entered a new realm where the smell of potential profit is using science to prove misconceptions or that the companies are taking advantage of unfounded hope that life does not have to end (millions of years of experience and evidence shows that it does indeed end).

The researchers plan to use lasers, nerve stimulation, and injections of peptides and stem cells. The companies hypothesize that these procedures will restart the brain.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Are poets the unacknowledged bioethicists of the world?

“Are poets the unacknowledged bioethicists of the world?” asked Tom Shakespeare, one of our Council members, on Monday night. Quite possibly so, if the rich ideas and concepts put forward by the poets who entered the Council’s (un)natural poetry competition are anything to go by.

Tom was speaking at an evening of poetry and debate that we organised to mark the conclusion of our project on ‘naturalness’. The winners of our poetry competition and Kayo Chingonyi, our poet in residence since the summer, stole the show with their beautifully crafted pieces that explored topics as diverse as organic food, hand transplants, afro hair, mobile technology and emigration.

Sophie Fenella, winner of our (un)natural poetry competition, performing her poem ‘Aubergines in Acton’ in London on 30 November

In the bar after the event several people asked me “We’re glad you did, but why did you decide to work with poets?”  When we started the project earlier this year and got to thinking about how ideas about naturalness affect our views on science and technology, we soon realised this was a subject that resonated with people, and not just philosophers and scientists. When I asked my friends and family if they could define what natural meant, they would launch into a long and interesting debate, usually with no conclusion or consensus. Poetry, we thought, might encourage more people to see our work as something that applies to them. We have involved artists in the Council’s work before, as a way of bringing wider society, particularly young people, into the conversation.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

The Printed Organs Coming to a Body Near You

April 15, 2015

(Nature) – The advent of three-dimensional (3D) printing has generated a swell of interest in artificial organs meant to replace, or even enhance, human machinery. Printed organs, such as a proto­type outer ear developed by researchers at Princeton University in New Jersey and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, will be on the agenda at the Inside 3D Printing conference in New York on 15–17 April. The ear is printed from a range of materials: a hydrogel to form an ear-shaped scaffold, cells that will grow to form cartilage, and silver nanoparticles to form an antenna. The device is just one example of the increasing versatility of 3D printing.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Research Ethics Roundup: Artificial Organs, the Sharing of Health Data for Research Purposes, and More

From new approaches to genetic research to changing conceptions of privacy, this week’s Research Ethics Roundup explores how advances in technology are changing the course of research.

Most Americans Would Share Health Data for Research: A recent NPR-Truven Health Analytics Health Poll saw a decline in the percentage of Americans willing to share their health information anonymously for research purposes. Fifty-three percent of respondents indicated that they were comfortable sharing anonymized health information, a 15 percent decline from August 2014.

Audit Questions US Oversight of Lab Animal Welfare: In December, the United States Department of Agriculture’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report following an audit of the agency’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. In this piece for Science, David Grimm reports on OIG’s key findings and considers their implications.

Every Patient a Subject: When Personalized Medicine, Genomic Research, and Privacy Collide: Jennifer J. Kulynych and Hank Greely consider how “advances in data science and information technology are eroding old assumptions—and undermining researchers’ promises—about the anonymity of DNA specimens and genetic data” in this piece for Slate.

Researchers Create Artificial Organs That Fit In Your Hand: Richard Harris reports on efforts to create organs-on-a-chip, which are designed to mimic the function of healthy human organs and may contribute to increased efficiency in the drug development process.

In a New Approach to Fighting Disease, Helpful Genetic Mutations Are Sought: In a new approach to genetics research, investigators are seeking out protective gene mutations, those that seemingly protect individuals from certain diseases.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

3D Bioprinting – At the Intersection of Design, Biomaterials and Life

Dirk Rodenburg discusses the benefits and potential harms of 3D bioprinting.

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Over the last few years, 3D printing has gone from a magical possibility (think: Star Trek’s “scan and replicate anything” device), to an everyday occurrence as consumer grade 3D printing devices have made their way onto the market. The 3D printer ‘builds’ an object by layering materials in a pattern. The materials used include plastic, nylon, sugar, metal and, more recently, biological tissue. The pattern is a three-dimensional blueprint that provides the 3D printer with information about the attributes of the object to be printed – shape, size, thickness, density, finish, and so on.

Clearly, 3D printing will have a significant impact on the way things are designed, produced, and distributed. One of the obvious benefits of 3D printing is that it allows for highly localized, small-scale production of goods to meet specific needs, including specific body parts. In Uganda, for example, there is now the ability to supply amputees with custom fitted prosthetics using 3D printing. However, this technology can also have worrisome outcomes. For example, it could be used to manufacture guns and other weapons from plastics and other less detectable materials using plans freely available on the Internet.

3D printer

But it is the application of 3D printing to biology – so-called bioprinting – that is likely to be the most controversial. Bioprinting is a technology that has the potential to change the way we view biological systems – from things that are unique to things that are ordinary. Although the processes for printing biological tissue are certainly far more complex than those used for printing from other materials such as plastic, in both instances the technology separates the model of the object – the source of its shape, size and density – from the object itself.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.