Replacement Parts

roboheartOrgan transplants saves lives, but there aren't enough suitable and available organs for those who need them. There just aren't enough donors. Two doctors, Joseph Vacanti of Boston Children’s Hospital in Massachusetts and David Cooper of the University of Cape Town Medical School in South Africa, are looking at ways around the human organ shortage problem.

Faced with this common problem, Vacanti and Cooper have championed very different solutions. Cooper thinks that the best hope of providing more organs lies in xenotransplantation—the act of replacing a human organ with an animal one. From his time in Cape Town to his current position at the University of Pittsburgh, he has been trying to solve the many problems that occur when pig organs enter human bodies, from immune rejection to blood clots. Vacanti, now at Massachusetts General Hospital, has instead been developing technology to create genetically tailored organs out of a patient’s own cells, abolishing compatibility issues. “I said to myself: why can’t we just make an organ?” he recalls.

Grow your own organs or use organs from animals? Ed Yong of Not Exactly Rocket Science writes about the research going on in both areas, and how they might possibly end the organ shortage, at TheScientist. Link


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