Freaky Friday? We think so. Bunsen Burner Joanna Zhang investigates the latest developments in organ and spooky body transplants here on Columbia’s own campus.
It’s the ultimate crunch time for midterms. While Bwoggers are either poring over textbooks and old notes or watching Taylor Swift videos as a VIP member of the procrastiNation, at some point in this pre-midterm craziness we’ve all considered taking someone else’s brain as our own. With the current strides in the scientific world, considering transplants as a last resort may not be so far-fetched after all.
While not as exciting as a brain transplant, CUMC researchers have discovered the immune system mechanism that allows our body to accept kidney transplants without using immunosuppressive drugs. It turns out that only a specific set of donor-reactive T cells are responsible for our tolerance to foreign tissue. They increase in numbers when a patient rejects the tissue and gradually disappear for those who were able to accept transplants. This discovery may lead to new ways in predicting rejection or tolerance to transplanted tissues for patients.
As for the liver, transplant surgeons at the College of Physicians and Surgeons have successfully performed a laparoscopic hepatectomy for the first time in the country. (Let’s take a moment to say laparoscopic hepatectomy ten times as fast as you can). Translation: They managed to cut out a portion of the liver out of a living adult donor for other transplant patients. Of course, it begs the question of what happened to the donors who couldn’t successfully remove a chunk of their liver… With a shortage in organs from deceased donors, living organ donors are becoming increasingly important. However, current procedures can leave donors with pain and higher risk of morbidity. This success indicates huge implications for mitigating the liver shortage, although surgeons warn that the described procedure should only be conducted on select patients by highly experienced staff.
But instead of waiting for someone to donate their brain, why not grow one yourself? Researchers at the Department of Biomedical Engineering (go BME, whoop whoop!) have been growing tissues to repair damaged hearts by placing stem cells into bioreactors that mimic human conditions. Coupled with advances in radiology, in which extremely complex maps of the human heart were successfully generated using ultrasound, you can practically make your own organ.
In retrospect, unless you’re a millionaire and have mad connections, transplanting or growing a new brain seems highly unlikely for now. And with that, better hit the books!
Spooky Surgery via Shutterstock