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Modern Frankenstein?

The Science and Social Science of Organ Replacement

Co Authors:

Susan Nava-Whitehead
Sciences and Education Department
Becker College

Kerri W. Augusto
Psychology and Mental Health Counseling
Becker College

Korryna A. Finkelstein
Becker College

Shianna Cruz
Becker College

Joel Clark
Becker College


This interdisciplinary case study uses the format of a progressive disclosure to explore certain advances in biotechnology and evaluate them within the framework of societal needs, concerns and pressures.  When faced with a heart valve transplant, a high school student and her mother must decide between multiple approaches, some current and others emergent. Highlighted in this case study are the topics of xenotransplantation, 3D bioprinting and the mature minor rule. The case includes a role-playing, public hearing activity that can be used to explore many aspects at the interface of technology and culture: religious rights, parental rights, public health care policy and safety, animal rights, economic issues of organ marketing, and psychological issues of body image.  This case study was originally designed for first year collegiate classes (introduction to biology, introduction to psychology) but is also applicable to AP high school. The flexible nature of the case also allows for expansion of several aspects for advanced classes across multiple disciplines.

  • Recognize the signs and symptoms of endocarditis.
  • Explore the various forms of organ transplantation with an emphasis on evaluating the advantages and disadvantages of mechanical vs. biological heart value transplantation.
  • Examine the criteria that should be used to define a young person as a mature minor in the context of medical decisions.
  • Describe the following as they relate to organ transplantation:
    • Biological: xenotransplantation, stereolithographic 3D bioprinting, stem cells, cloning, vascularization, totipotency, immunorejection, zoonotic disease.
    • Psychological: cognitive development, psychosocial development, identity development, moral development, bereavement, body integrity disorder.
    • Legal: mature minor, capacity, competence, statute, common law, competing interest.
Keywords: organ replacement; xenotransplantation; 3D bioprinting; body integrity disorder, mature minor; bioethics;
Topical Area: Ethics, Legal issues
Educational Level: High school, Undergraduate lower division
Formats: PDF
Type/Method: Dilemma/Decision, Interrupted, Public Hearing
Language: English
Subject Headings: Biology (General)   Biomedical Engineering   Psychology   Biotechnology   Public Health   Science (General)   Interdisciplinary Sciences  
Date Posted: 3/5/2018
Date Modified: N/A
Copyright: Copyright held by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Please see our usage guidelines, which outline our policy concerning permissible reproduction of this work.

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Supplemental Materials

The podcasts below are optional materials that provide additional background for this case study.

  Human-Animal Hybrids Find Their Place in Medicine
A persistent shortage of donor organs has led researchers to attempt to grow replacement organs from human stem cells. After limited success with in vitro attempts, scientists are now approaching the problem from a different angle: growing the organ from human stem cells inside an animal host. Podcast created by Science Friday. Running time: 16:45 min. Date: February 3, 2017.
  3D Printing Living Cells
This podcast with the director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine describes the challenges of 3-D printing living cells and how the technology could be used in bioengineering body parts. Podcast created by Science Friday. Running time: 8:42 min. Date: February 19, 2016.

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