We’re One Step Closer to Growing Human Organs Inside of Pigs

In an effort to tackle the organ donor shortage, researchers in the United States have successfully created part-human, part-pig embryos and implanted them into a sow. Eventually, these animals could act as incubators for human organs, which concerns some ethicists.

Source: We’re One Step Closer to Growing Human Organs Inside of Pigs

To be clear: you can use your own cells in the pig chimera and get organs that are fully compatible with your own, genetically. While we hopefully figure out how to construct organs from scratch quickly and relatively cheaply, for the time being this is the best way to produce fully functional organs reliably.

First US Penis Transplant Successfully Carried Out on Massachusetts Man

All those spam emails are about to come true…

A Boston man who lost most of his penis in a fight with cancer has become the first US patient to receive a penis transplant.

Thomas Manning, 64, a bank courier from Halifax, Massachusetts, received the new organ from a deceased donor in a 15 hour-long operation conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston on May 8 and 9. The procedure involves doctors hooking up nerves, veins, and arteries between the recipient and donor organ. So far, Manning’s doctors are “cautiously optimistic” that he will recover urinary and sexual function in the coming weeks and months.

Source: First US penis transplant successfully carried out on Massachusetts man

I’m sure some potential donors would say their organ would have to be taken from “their cold, dead hands”. Everyone hopes to go out doing something they love… 😉

I believe Russia’s approach to organ donation is that it is an opt-out policy – otherwise your participation is assumed.  I don’t know if that is true, but I personally like the idea.

How Much Protein You Really Need In Your Diet

Getting enough protein is important, regardless of whether you want healthy skin and nails, to lose weight, or get bulging biceps. But “enough” could be the difference between eating a few extra eggs and washing down your steak with protein shakes. Here’s how to find out.

Source: How Much Protein You Really Need In Your Diet

It’s important to note:

If you’re obese and calculate your needs based on total body weight, you’re overdoing it on the protein. Go by your ideal body weight, not your current body weight. So if you’re 250 pounds and want to be 180 pounds, you’d multiply your intake by 180, not 250. (81-122 grams of protein per day for a sedentary person, for example.)

Creation of Mini-Organs Follows Mini-Brains; Teeny Frankensteins Unlikely

To go along with mini thinking brain balls grown in lab, researchers have built functional, tiny organs as well—inching closer to the possibility of stitching together teeny-weeny Frankenstein monsters.

Source: Creation of mini-organs follows mini-brains; teeny Frankensteins unlikely

Some day in the future, we may have little nanobots in our blood that can regenerate our damaged organs and tissue.

Organ Transplants Between HIV-Positive Patients Begin At Johns Hopkins

Organ transplants between HIV-positive patients will begin as soon as the candidates are available, surgeons at Johns Hopkins Medical Center said.

Source: Organ Transplants Between HIV-Positive Patients Begin At Johns Hopkins

That HIV/AIDS is almost entirely preventable is a fact. That a little personal responsibility is all that’s needed to prevent it is not.

Children get it from their parents. People get it from bad medical practices. People who make the ‘right choices’ all of their lives get it from spouses who had it and didn’t know it, or from partners who picked it up while cheating. People get it because they live in a place with virtually no Sex Ed beyond “sex is bad, don’t do it unless you’re married to a person of the other sex,” and then make bad choices due to misinformation. And yes, some people who should know better make shitty life choices.

But even in the last case, it’s not something that should cause us to turn our backs on a person.

Scientists Grow Functional Kidney Organoid from Stem Cells

There are many diseases that attack specific organs, landing patients on a transplant list. Unfortunately, our bodies have markers that identify an organ as “self,” which makes it difficult to find an organ match. Many individuals die waiting for an organ transplant because a match can’t be found.

Source: Scientists grow functional kidney organoid from stem cells

The shortage of organ donors has always bothered me. I feel like organ donation should be opt out, not opt in. Still, with advances like this, maybe it won’t be necessary at all in the future.

“Tissue Velcro” Could Patch Damaged Organs

Hook and loop!  Velcro is a trademark… 😉

In the not-too-distant future, patients with damaged hearts or livers might receive tissue patches grown in a lab. This week, researchers announced an important development toward that goal: A biodegradable scaffold that allows strips of beating heart tissue to snap together like Velcro.

Source: “Tissue Velcro” Could Patch Damaged Organs

There’s no word if this does anything for the other scaffolding stuff in the news a little while back.

Investigators Can Get Your DNA From the Guts of Maggots That Have Fed On You

Next week, on CSI… 😉

Some crime scenes don’t have bodies. What they have is a place where a body was, and a suspiciously large amount of maggots. Up until recently, the maggots could only have been a very bad sign. Now, it seems that maggots can help genetically identify their last meals.

Source: Investigators Can Get Your DNA From the Guts of Maggots That Have Fed On You

How else are your dependents supposed to get the insurance money?


To Treat Cancer, Doctors Will Grow Miniature Organs from Your Tumors

Organoids are exactly what they sound like: simplified miniature organs. And now geneticists are growing them out of living cancer cells, creating tiny, living cancer tumors for study. It sounds terrifying, but it’s actually one possible way we’ll get personalized medicine to treat many kinds of cancer.

Source: To Treat Cancer, Doctors Will Grow Miniature Organs from Your Tumors

This is very exciting stuff, but may never be used for it intended purpose. There’s the possibility that cancer will be treated differently and more meaningfully without the need for this technology.  For example, organoids can be a key aspect on generating new drugs.

As They Lay Dying: Terminally Ill and Organ Donation

…W.B.’s life was turned upside down by the diagnosis. But once the initial shock passed, he began researching his condition intensively. He learned that he was unlikely to survive five years, and that in the meantime his quality of life would diminish dramatically. With limited options, many patients retreat. But, quite bravely, W.B. had other ideas. After much consideration, he decided that if he was going to die, he would like to try to save another person’s life in the process, even if that person was a stranger. And so last May he approached the University of Wisconsin’s transplant program, where we are surgeons, as a prospective organ donor.

…From the earliest days of transplantation, surgeons subscribed to an informal ethical norm known as the “dead-donor rule,” holding that organ procurement should not cause a donor’s death. In practice, this meant waiting until patients were by all measures completely dead—no heartbeat, no blood pressure, no respiration—to remove any vital organs. Unfortunately, few organs were still transplantable by this point, and those that were transplanted tended to have poor outcomes by today’s standards.

Source: As They Lay Dying

The medicine, the US in this article particularly, operates in a strange paradox – we uphold the right to patient autonomy in nearly every situation… Except when an otherwise (legally) competent individual chooses a care option that involves the outcome of death/disability by intervention. Physician-aid-in-dying and this particular case are examples of decisions made by terminally-ill people where we interfere with their right to self-determination.

I don’t stand on a political soapbox – everyone gets an opinion and a vote – but rather an ethical one.

If we can not cure, what are the boundaries of what we do to palliate? What if we are able to simultaneously palliate (psychologically or physically) one patient, while providing an invaluable service to another? Is it truly against the spirit of the Hippocratic oath to provide psychologically and spiritually meaningful interventions at the expense of the physical body?

I personally am of the mind that if the patient and physician enter into a trusting and respectful relationship, that these questions can only be answered/defined within the context of that particular relationship.