Donated bodies are powering gene-edited organ research

This time the experiment lasted only 72 hours, as that’s about how long a pig liver would be needed to support a real patient. Hasz says other families might be comfortable with longer experiments, but probably not anything indefinite: “We can maintain a body with mechanical support once they are declared medically and legally dead, but families have a desire for closure, funeral services, and depending on the family, they may limit it to one day or one month.”

Hasz says his team will be looking for more body donors to support further experiments with pig livers. And he expects many will agree. “We depend every day in organ transplant on the kindness of strangers who are at their worst possible moment, but they can set that aside and think of others,” he says. “Having talked to many families over the years, I am always surprised and humbled by their willingness to say yes.”

Read more from MIT Technology Review’s archive

Last year, MIT Technology Review’s Mortality Issue explored how technology is sometimes blurring the line between life and death. News editor Charlotte Jee wrote my favorite story in the issue, which described how chatbots can create  “digital clones” that let people speak to their dead relatives.

We said donated organs only come from brain-dead individuals. But there are some exceptions. In 2015 we wrote about a device that could revive hearts that had stopped beating, making them available for transplant.

Pig-to-human organ transplants made our 2023 list of 10 Breakthrough Technologies because they could end the organ shortage. We took a deep dive into one entrepreneur’s plans to make it happen.

Around the web

A lab in China reported experiments with a coronavirus that is 100% fatal to mice and could harm humans. It caused brain damage and turned their eyes white. Some scientists condemned the risky research as “madness.” (New York Post)

Perverse incentives, no real negotiation, and profiteering middlemen. Those are among the five key reasons drug prices in the US are nearly twice those in some European countries. (New York Times)

No one can resist a cute animal story—I think that’s why efforts to test anti-aging drugs in pets get so much media attention. But now people are howling about the $7-million-a-year Dog Aging Project, whose organizers say they’re about to lose their government funding. The project has been testing the life-span effects on dogs of a drug called rapamycin. (Science)

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