What happens when a human is made from pig tissue?


That day I sat in a brand new car and thought I was done with a spaceship. Touch screens, cameras and sensors. Anti-collision automatic braking system, adaptive cruise control, traffic sign assistance. The car had its own app where you could remotely control many functions. I thought what in the name of peace. I hardly have to drive myself anymore.

In Phoenix, Arizona, Waymo has been operating self-driving taxis since last year – a real car. Even tech giant Apple has stepped in. Expect the upcoming iCar that can only be charged through three plug-in adapters connected to Apple’s proprietary power lines.

Business people draw one Future vision Where we jump in and out of the ultra-secure autonomous machines that roam the city.

But the great technological progress It always has a looping effect on the water: changes occur not only in the direct field of technology, but in the second, third and fourth stages. And some think we need to prepare for safer car traffic with negative consequences.

use huge The percentage of organ donations comes from traffic accidents. Writer Lisa Kirsibom has in several Last discussion He wrote that there are ways to increase the number of transplants, for example by reviewing care procedures. But it may be wise to prepare for the loss of donors as the circulation becomes safer.

A few weeks ago, surgeons in New York succeeded in connecting a kidney from a genetically modified pig to the body of a brain-dead patient.

Perhaps biomedical advances could offer a solution. New York surgeons succeeded a few weeks ago college hook up From a genetically modified pig to the carcass of a brain dead patient to assess whether the organ can be tolerated, as well as the ability to produce urine. The experiment was crowned with success: during the three days that it lasted, everything went as it should.

Rocket character in the film “Guardians of the Galaxy” – a genetic experiment in the border regions of man and animals.

Photo: Marvel Studios / Kobal / Rex

This is a great achievement and a breakthrough – because the human body usually immediately rejects the organs of pigs. Revivicor has successfully removed a sugar molecule that our immune system responds to from the surface of pig cells with relatively simple genetic modifications. The company and others are now making more pork organs equal to our country, among other things by inserting human genes into the genome of the pig, a process called in scientific jargon the humanization of animals.

Here I remember Theseus’ ship – you know the old ship paradox that damaged panels were replaced one by one, until all the original panels were replaced with new ones. Is it still the same ship, or a new ship, that is the old question.

He is a patient person Much of the porcine tissue is still human, or something else? The kidney might not be impressive, but if we start transplanting nerve tissue into humanized pigs, then? Nerve tissue in addition to the heart, kidneys and liver? When do pigs compatible with humans become humans, when do humans with organs from pigs become pigs? I imagine George Orwell laughed at evolution.

If the boundaries of species start to blur drastically, it poses ethical questions

For me, biologically speaking, humans are a bag of cooperating cells, whether my kidneys contain pig DNA or human DNA is not very important. But if species boundaries are starting to blur more drastically, it presents us with ethical considerations that we have not been able to avoid so far. Especially in terms of law, we may need to define or resolve more precisely the boundary between humans and other animals. This can be a more confusing task than many realize.

From a larger perspective, our newfound power over genetics is even more remarkable. Until recently, the genetic material we had access to as a species was completely limited to sexual reproduction – we could only exchange genes with other people when we had children. But using modern genetic technology, we can transfer genes from bacteria, fungi, insects, birds and pigs into our DNA – and vice versa. What will happen to all possible hybrids? How will they be classified?

Self-driving cars will probably be considered fairly trivial in the future with living sphinxes.

Farshid Jallvand is a Malmö-based molecular microbiologist, researcher and cultural writer. He will be published in spring 2022 with his first book “Apan & Filosofen” on evolution and philosophy. He is a new columnist for Lördagsmagasinet.

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