Monday, 26 November 2007

Body (Parts) Building

Do you know what one of the most lucratively rewarded jobs is? Aw, come on! Give it a shot: Writing easily consumed novels for youngsters? Nah, too lawful (although royalties like THOSE people get, could be potentially considered “criminal”). Human trafficking? No, too old-fashioned – I mean, you CAN be more imaginative than the Romans, really now! Drug trafficking? Damn, you sure are unoriginal and just how do you think the various government-powered drug cartels would react to a new, hard-working player?

OK, let us give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you do not know or even that you would never consider careers like the above (well, except maybe the first one). Although all of the above gross a pretty penny and some top the budget of countries many times over (quiz: which “superpower” has an invisible “Made in China” stamped discreetly on it?), the most lucrative business out there is trafficking in parts; body parts. If you watch as much Discovery Channel as I do, you will have noticed that when building/pimping/repairing any sorts of cars, the hard bucks are spent under the hood, not on it. Similarly, the black market yields astronomical income to those trafficking in internal (under skin, or “hood” so to speak) organs, especially livers, kidneys and hearts (yes, the tariffs are set AND widely known).

Now, as ergoproxy has explained to me with painful patience, there is only one thing that raises a product’s price like nothing else: lack thereof, coupled with high demand for it. Livers and kidneys for example: not many to go around and people seem to demand more every day, whether as a result of sickness, overindulgence and plain old bad luck. Let us not forget, the frustration factor: organ rejection. When anything and I mean ANYTHING enters your body, the body reacts (if you are healthy and God forbid otherwise) with a top grade Corporate Antivirus, which never ceases to get updated, detecting the threat, if any and sending divisions of little soldiers to snuff the little bugger. I layman’s terms, anything perceived as “of a similar nature but not the appropriate type” goes boom. You cannot just stitch up any liver to your patient, for its building blocks may not agree with theirs, therefore making the soldiers attack the new organ: the result is all sorts of nasty medical conditions (and go watch reruns of the ER if you have the stomach for it; I am not analyzing this any further), a result of which is that the organ must be removed (and potentially used elsewhere). Hence, “organ rejection”.

That is exactly what the lowlifes (actually, they could probably buy out any small-to-medium country like ours but you get the inference) trafficking in human body parts exploit: the constant, unabated need for them. One effort for an alternative led to the creation of body parts from memory materials, which would be “tabula rasa” until they came in contact with their new host, thereby infused with the same “identity” and accepted by the body. I believe this has gone quite well only in the case of hearts, who are relatively simple organs (compared to the kidneys and liver, they are just biologically timed blood-pumps). Another alternative is stem cell research, of which I know very little and would require an article on its own. The solution presented here is very intriguing, especially at the level of 3D printing, because the replacement organs are grown from cells of the prospective host himself, incubated in artificial “bodies” or literally printed using the prospective host’s cells.

If research such as Tony Atala's could be more widely funded – hell, invested in – I believe a major plague of the world (such as organ trafficking is) could be held at bay, even rendered obsolete.


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