" />
Published On: Sat, Apr 28th, 2018

Why brain, eyes, testes transplants off-limit for scientists

Since the world’s first successful organ transplant in 1954 — a kidney — the discipline has advanced to the point where a wounded soldier could have his penis and scrotum replaced in a groundbreaking operation last month.

Are there areas off-limit for scientists after the first penis and scrotum transplant was done at John Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland in United States?.

A Frenchman recently became the first person to receive a second face transplant after the first failed, and another made history by regrowing skin lost over 95 percent of his body, thanks to a graft from his twin brother.

Transplants are no longer limited to the vital organs: heart, liver, or lungs. Nowadays, people can get a new hand… or even a uterus.

But some organs remain off-limits. For now.

– Brain swap –

Topping the list, brain transplants are a long way off, for both technical and ethical reasons, experts say.

“The most challenging organ to transplant is anything related to the nervous system, as we do not have effective techniques for nerve growth/regeneration,” explained transplant surgeon David Nasralla, of the University of Oxford.

“For this reason, eye and brain transplants are currently beyond the scope of modern medicine,” he told AFP.

Jerome Hamon is the first man to have received two face transplants, a feat carried out in Paris

Nerves carry messages through the body in the form of electrochemical pulses flitting between the brain and spinal cord, muscles and other organs.

An Italian-Chinese surgical duo recently set the science world aflutter by announcing they planned to remove a person’s head and attach it to a decapitated donor body in what would be the first such procedure.

There is a high likelihood, observers say, that the patient will die.

Many doubt it is possible to connect the nerve fibres of two spinal cords.

Franck Dufourmantelle (R), 34, received skin grafts from his twin brother Eric after suffering burns to 95 percent of his body

Above all else, the undertaking raises troubling moral questions, including a very basic one: What constitutes a person? A brain alone?

The patient, suggested a recent article in the journal Surgical Neurology International, will likely struggle with the concept of “human identity”.

“Even memories of the role the former body played in the creation of the subject’s identity would encounter possible conflict with a new donor-given body,” wrote bio-ethicists Anto Cartolovni and Antonio Spagnolo.

“Similar issues were also seen in cases of face and hand transplants. This confusion to the person’s psychological state could possibly lead to serious psychological problems, namely insanity and finally death.”

– Fancy a pig heart? –

Given the dire shortage of donor organs, the use of animal hearts, lungs or livers to save human lives has long been a holy grail of medical science.

But organ rejection has stood stubbornly in the way of inter-species “xenotransplants”.

“It was tried in the 50s and 60s, with kidneys from chimpanzees, for example. But organ failure set in immediately, within days. They could not break through the species barrier,” said Olivier Bastien, of France’s biomedicine agency.

This is changing as scientists learn to modify the genes that prompt the immune system to attack intruder germs, but also foreign tissue perceived as a threat.

Researchers’ focus is to modify the genes of donor animals so their organs will resist the human immune response, while also preventing the transfer of animal diseases.

Animal welfare is an added concern.

“Up to what point should we undermine the animal’s immune system”, asks Bastien — potentially exposing it to disease and suffering so we can harvest its organs?

– Are there limits? –

Few organs remain technically non-transplantable. But two are excluded, for now, due to their raising of ethical eyebrows — the testes and ovaries.

“A testicle transplant would amount to assisted reproduction in disguise,” said Bastien.

One question is this: If the recipient fathers children with his new sperm-producing testicles, whose offspring are they — his, or the donor’s?

The same issue arises in the case of a head transplant onto a male body.

A paper last year in the Journal of Medical Ethics urged a rethink of risk-benefit ratio of non life-saving organ transplants.

“The greatest risk transplant recipients face comes from the powerful but noxious agents, immunosuppressives, which must be used to keep transplanted organs from being rejected,” wrote Arthur Caplan and Duncan Purves.

A long list of possible side effects — including cancer — can be justified for a heart or lung transplant, they argued, but possibly less so for a new face, hand or penis.

“The shift away from saving lives to seeking to make them better requires a shift in the ethical thinking that has long formed the foundation of organ transplantation,” the duo argued.

Leave a comment

XHTML: You can use these html tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Most Shared

Recent posts

  • Ikeja Hotels returns to Lagos bourse

    The Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) has given the management of Ikeja Hotels the approval to resume trading after reviewing the two-year suspension placed on the shares of the company on Nov. 10, 2016. According to a ‘facts behind the restructuring’ document released by Ms Tinuade Awe, NSE Executive Director Regulation, trading would commence on the […]

  • Pharmacist council begins recall of Codeine cough syrup

    The Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) says it has started recalling cough syrup containing Codeine from its stakeholders in compliance with Federal Government directive. The Registrar of PCN, Mr Elijah Mohammed, revealed this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Saturday in Abuja. The Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, had […]

  • N5bn fraud: Akingbola has case to answer – Supreme Court

    The Supreme Court on Friday ordered, Erastus Akingbola, to return to the Federal High Court, Lagos, to answer his alleged five billion Naira fraud charge. Akingbola is a former Managing Director of the defunct Intercontinental Bank Plc. Justice Tanko Muhammad, leading a five-man panel, affirmed the Feb. 20, 2015 judgment of the Court of Appeal […]

  • AMCON takes over Sen. Oduah’s assets

    The Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) has taken over Sea Petroleum Oil & Gas Ltd. and other assets belonging to Sen. Stella Oduah-Ogiemwonyi over an unpaid debt of about N20 billion. AMCON said the takeover followed an injunction granted by Justice M.S. Hassan of the Federal High Court, Lagos against Sea Petroleum Oil & […]

  • Not so sir, Army panel tells General TY Danjuma

    The Nigerian Army on Friday said allegations against it by retired Gen. T.Y Danjuma that it colluded with militia in Taraba and refused to protect the people were untrue. The Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, made this known at a news conference in Abuja where he gave details of the findings of the […]

  • Total, Mobil oil top losers’ chart on NSE

    Total Nigeria Plc on Friday at the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE)  topped the losers’ chart, dropping by N9.80 to close at N212 per share, the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)reports. Mobil Oil trailed with a loss of N7 to close at N181, while Dangote Cement was down by N3 to close at N245 per share. […]

  • Invest more in science education, academic tasks FG

    The Federal Government has been advised to increase its funding of the education sector if Nigeria is to become globally competitive. An academic at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife in Osun State, Dr Babatunde Ogundare, gave the recommendation on Tuesday at the Faculty of Science Secondary Schools Quiz Competition held at the institution. Addressing […]

  • Timeline of Ebola virus since first known outbreak

    Following is a recap of past epidemics of Ebola as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) battles a new outbreak of the deadly tropical disease: 1976: First known outbreak  Ebola was first identified in central Africa in 1976 and named after a river in northern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It claimed 431 lives that […]

  • Crude prices hits above $80 since late 2014

    Benchmark oil contract Brent North Sea briefly surged above $80 a barrel Thursday, hitting its highest level since late 2014 and extending a recent run higher fuelled by tight supply concerns. European stock markets meanwhile rose as the euro weakened against the dollar, but Wall Street pulled back in early New York trading. Brent North […]

  • AfDB approves $100m to boost fertilizer production in Nigeria

    The African Development Bank (AfDB) says it has approved 100 million dollars senior loan to Nigerian firm, Indorama Eleme Fertilizer and Chemicals Limited, to support the production of Fertilizer in Nigeria. The Bank disclosed this in a statement, on Thursday adding that it would help the company’s plans to double its fertilizer production from 1.4 million […]

  • FG opens online portal for investors

    The Federal Government has launched an up-to-date online portal, `iGuide Nigeria’, containing necessary information and relevant data for willing investors. The Minister of Trade and Investment, Mr Okechukwu Enelamah, at the launch in Abuja on Thursday, said the portal would greatly improve the Ease of Doing Business in the country. The Permanent Secretary of the […]

  • Governors threaten NNPC over fuel subsidy

    National Economic Council (NEC), comprising the 36 State Governors in the country has threatened to take over the responsibility of subsidising petroleum products in their states based on consumption following the huge amount of money being spent by the NNPC as fuel subsidy payment annually. The Chairman of Governors’ Forum, Gov. Abdulazeez Yari of Zamfara […]

  • Kamra Indian manager of Dangote Cement killed in Ethiopia

    Deep Kamra, the Indian manager of the cement plant owned by Nigeria’s Dangote Industries Limited in Ethiopia was killed on Wednesday after he was attacked in the restive Oromiya region while returning to Addis Ababa from the factory. Both the secretary and driver of Kamra, who is the Dangote Cement country manager, were also shot […]

  • Don’t reject gunshot victims, Police warn doctors

    The Lagos State Police Command has warned hospitals and doctors to henceforth desist from rejecting gunshot victims, saying such act constitutes a flagrant violation of an existing law. In a statement on Wednesday by the Command’s Public Relations Officer, Chike Oti, they said doctors who do so are criminally liable on account of the provision […]

  • Shareholders caution Oando against Ansbury reconciliation

    Some shareholders of Oando Plc on Wednesday cautioned its management against moves to reconcile with Ansbury Investments Incorporated, owned by Mr Gabriele Volpi. The shareholders: Pacesetters Shareholders Association, Distinct Shareholders Association and Sage Shareholders, said their objection to the reconciliatory moves was based on an ongoing investigation of Volpi for alleged money laundering by Italian […]

  • Senate passes 2018 Budget of N9.12 trillion

    The Senate has passed the 2018 Budget of N9.12 Trillion following the consideration and adoption of the Budget report laid on the floor of the upper legislative chamber on Tuesday. This is coming 6 months after the budget document was presented to a joint session of the National Assembly in November. The Budget document passed […]