Organ Donation, Anatomy and Genetic Modification

31st May 2013 at 01:00


Man-made monsters

Many regard Frankenstein, published in 1818, as the first example of science fiction. Its author, Mary Shelley, was inspired to write it after having a dream in which a scientist succeeded in creating a living creature, only to be horrified by what he had given life to.

In the story, the monster, created by scientist Victor Frankenstein, is a gruesome patchwork of body parts with withered skin and long, black hair. He embodies an outdated, negative stereotype that organ donation is in some way monstrous.

In truth, the creature is more tragic than terrifying. His quest to find love and friendship in the human world ultimately leads to bloodshed as he realises that because he is different, he is doomed to be rejected.

The novel raises fundamental questions about humanity and tolerance. Frankenstein's monster starts out as a blank canvas but his potential is perverted by the cruelty and lack of empathy that he encounters. The real monster is his creator, Frankenstein.

Related resources

- What is organ donation? How is it viewed?

Find out with a PowerPoint from allyIreeves. bit.lyWhatIs OrganDonation

- Explore some of the ethical issues around organ donation in rclifford12's activities. bit.lyEthics Donation

- Consider the themes of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein in a lesson from carolinepayne51. bit.lyFranken steinThemes

- Is it right to clone animals? Spark a debate in a lesson shared by Teach_Biology. bit.lyDolly Cloning

What else?

- Who was Leonardo da Vinci? Find out in a video shared by BBC Class Clips - Art amp; Design. bit.lyWhoWas Leonardo

Prepare students to perform a heart dissection in jhayward2's lesson. bit.lyDissectTheHeart

- Discuss ethics in science in an activity from rossydunn. bit.lyScience Ethics

- What is genetic engineering? Why is it so divisive? Explore these questions using allyIreeves' PowerPoint. bit.lyGMQuestions


Body of work

In the 15th and 16th centuries, no clear distinction existed between art and science. Scholars such as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo are considered to be the epitome of "Renaissance men" because they studied science, art and architecture, among other disciplines.

They produced remarkably advanced depictions of the human body for the times in which they lived. Da Vinci filled sketchbooks with drawings of what lies beneath the skin, which modern scanning techniques such as MRI and ultrasound have shown to be incredibly accurate. One of his most famous drawings is of a human fetus inside a womb, which he imagined based on his dissection of a cow.

Da Vinci and Michelangelo also dissected human bodies;Michelangelo did so from the age of 17. Renaissance culture, combined with these remarkable minds, delivered groundbreaking advances in the realms of science and art.


Could pigs save our bacon?

Scientists have been researching ways to transplant corneas from genetically modified pigs into humans suffering from eye problems, and they foresee clinical trials in the near future. The transplantation of larger organs such as lungs, hearts and kidneys would require much more research because of problems of clotting and excessive bleeding.

A team at the University of Pittsburgh in the US has been investigating the use of pigs created with human genes, so that body parts grown in them could be transplanted into humans without being rejected. They believe that such transplants "could be justified as a bridge until a human organ becomes available".

Meanwhile, the laboratory that created the cloned sheep Dolly has produced a piglet that is resistant to African swine fever. Known as Pig 26, the piglet was created via a process called "gene editing" at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, Scotland, last year. According to newspaper The Daily Telegraph, scientists hope that similar techniques could be used to make livestock immune to a host of diseases, which could help to meet the challenge of feeding the world's growing population.

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