We Live in a Sci-fi World

Who says the world of the Jetsons never materialized?  There is now a technique for implanting human stem cells into early pig embryos, creating a chimera (an animal with two different genomes) in order to generate- within the growing pig- human organs suitable for transplantation.  Only one example of the many potential risks is that human cells may migrate into the pig’s brain, giving the pig partial human intelligence.  And from this self-aware pig we would harvest the desired organs!  It sounds monstrous, doesn’t it, sort of like The Island of Dr. Moreau; but the goal is to meet the huge need for transplant organs, and to save lives.  Nevertheless, a little voice somewhere in our minds is shouting out a warning.

Here’s an excerpt from my novel, Fourth World, written several years ago:

Dr. Neelin glanced at Benn, then went on, “Now we enter the thorax.  We see Bob’s lungs, his heart, an atrophied thymus gland.  And here is the esophagus… the hilum… some rather enlarged lymph nodes… ah.  Can anyone tell me what this is?”  He was holding the heart, in its glistening gray pericardium, off to one side- and there, in the back of the chest cavity, continuous with the left lung, was a kidney!

“Come now, speak up- it’s just what it looks like.  That’s right- a kidney, in Bob’s chest!  Poor old Bob also suffered from hypertensive renal failure, and this was an attempt to generate a new kidney for him.  But given the early stage of technology, there was no guaranteeing where those wandering stem cells- those naughty rascals- would end up, was there?  Searching for their home in the retro-peritoneum, they settled and vascularized instead at the back of the thorax- which, by the way, looks remarkably similar, to a seeker molecule.  In this case, to Bob’s extreme chagrin, the little kidney actually put out a small daily amount of urine into Bob’s lung!  This gave him a productive cough, confused his doctors, and …”- Neelin threw another quick glance in Benn’s direction- “…probably didn’t help with Bob’s halitosis, either!”



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