Sheep Dialysis Machine: Are Pets the Medical Devices of the Future?

Using animals to grow human body parts has been done, but how about using a live sheep for dialysis? The idea comes from one design student Revital Cohen. The project she's calling "Life Support" seeks to use a sheep whose genome has been spliced with a human to produce human blood. The transgenic sheep then becomes a dialysis machine for diabetes patients, filtering their blood as it frolics in pastures during the day, then gets needles shoved in its head each night. Adorable!

From the article on We Make Money Not Art:

Revital's scenario imagine that, in the future, a patient suffering from kidney failure would give a blood sample to lab scientists who then isolate in the genome the regions that code for blood production (bone marrow tissues), and immune response (the major histocompatibility complex), extract the genome from the nucleus of a somatic cell taken from a sheep and substitute the corresponding regions of the sheep's genome with the DNA from the patients' genome.

This recombinant DNA is then inserted into the nucleus of a pre-prepared sheep egg cell. After cell division in the egg is initiated, the egg is implanted into a surrogate ewe which will eventually give birth to a transgenic lamb.

During the day, the dialysis sheep roams in the donor patient's back garden, grazes to cleanse its kidneys, and drinks water containing salt minerals, calcium and glucose.

At night, the sheep is placed at the patient's bedside. The transgenic sheep's kidneys are connected via blood lines to the patient's fistula (a surgically enlarged vein). During the night, waste products from the patient's blood are pumped out of the body, filtered through the sheep's kidney and the blood is returned, cleaned, to the patient.

This happens over and over again throughout the night. The day after, the sheep urinates the toxins.

Another of "Life Support"'s projects aims to use greyhounds as artificial lungs for patients who require ventilators to breathe. The device works by strapping a bellows to a retired racing dog (one that would be euthanized anyway) and having it chase a bunny while on a treadmill. As the dog runs, it's increased lung movements pump the bellows, providing air for a human patient.

Sheep Dialysis Machine: Are Pets the Medical Devices of the Future?

This sounds cute and all, but how practical is it, really? Greyhounds can't run non-stop, 24 hours a day. What happens when the dog tires out, or needs a little kibble snack? And as for the sheep thing, do you really think PETA is going to let you jam needles into their heads, even if they're transgenic?

Source: Revital Cohen, via We Make Money Not Art via MedGadget