Currently 70,000 Americans are on the organ waiting list and fewer than 20,000 of these people can hope to have their lives saved by human organ transplantation.1 As a result of this shortage, there has been a tremendous demand for research in alternative methods of organ transplantation. Private companies are racing to develop these technologies with an estimated market of six billion dollars.2 Xenotransplantation, or cross-species organ transplantation, appears to be the most likely solution in the near future, and cloned pigs are the main candidates. Pigs and humans have remarkable similarities in physiology, which along with cloning makes pigs strong possibilities for organ donors. A controversial alternative method involves the use of genetically altered headless human beings as organ donors. Although this method may not be developed for some years, scientists are already discussing the necessary technologies. Whether the solution is the cloning of a pig or a human, organ farms may provide us with a solution to our ever-increasing need for donors.
The theory behind transplanting porcine organs into humans is relatively simple. Humans and pigs have such similar physiologies that transplanted organs would behave the same ways in humans as they do in pigs. After the operation, it is just a matter of suppressing the immune system to prevent the organ’s rejection. In fact, livers transplanted from pigs are already being used as temporary solutions for many people waiting for human donors.3 Unfortunately, “temporary” is the key word here. Porcine cells have a sugar not found in human cells, which the immune system recognizes and instantly attacks in what is calle…
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…oukl, R., “Babies as Organ Farms,” Stand to Reason Commentary, January 16, 1996.
Krauthammer, C., “Of Headless Mice…And Men,” TIME, January 19, 1998.
Roth, R., “Some Pigs!” CBS News, March 16, 2000.
Tangley, “The perils and promise of Xena,” US News
The Human Genome Project and the Media
Human Genome Project and the Media
Newspapers, magazines, news programs and commercials have only seconds, if not only tenths of seconds, to catch our attention, to sell us an idea or product, or to convey the most up-to-the-minute information about society, technology and health. To attract viewers, readers, and customers, individual media sources must be among the best at capturing our attention, which means they must convince us that we need the information they have, or the product they wish to sell. When the media report on breakthrough biomedical technology their goal is the same: to capture our attention and make us feel that we should listen.
When it came to reporting the breakthrough achievement of the Human Genome Project – the mapping of the human genome – it wasn’t hard for the media to find a captive audience. Scientists had, supposedly, found exactly “what we were made of.” According to the media, scientists were now on the edge of eliminating disease, explaining our differences, and giving us options to engineer future generations. If scientists were about to solve all of our problems through this discovery, they were also opening a new arena for discrimination in the workplace and insurance coverage. The media brought all of these issues to the public eye, making us aware of the power, both for good and evil, that scientists had unleashed. Various television news reports from directly after the announcement of the genome mapping allow us to analyze how the media presents these arguments, what information they convey and leave out, whom they are targeting, and how they target them.
The morning after Francis Collins, NIH Human Genome Research Institute Head Scientist, and Craig Venter, President of Celera Genomics, announced that they had both separately completed the mapping of the entire human genome, they appeared together on CBS News’ The Early Show with Bryant Gumble(1). The Early Show airs when many people are getting ready for work in the mornings to an audience that is assumedly, by their interest in morning news shows, more well-informed than the general public. Therefore, Venter and Collins did not discuss the technical details of their findings, but addressed the issues of concern to the informed, though not necessarily scientifically competent, consumer.
In answer to Gumble’s request, Collins completed the statement: “The mapping of the human genetic code is important because.