Transgenic Animals as Human Life Support Machines


This article at Inventor Spot made me do a double-take on several levels: Animals As Life Support Machines: Is That Technomimicry? It covers the recent presentation of female designer Revital Cohen about replacing certain kinds of human life support machines with animals genetically designed for the task. It opens up a lot of ethical questions, for sure, but overall as an idea it sparks some pretty wild ideas. What if instead of a seeing eye dog, your “guide dog” provided not vision and guidance, but say, performed the function of existing as a battery for your pacemaker? That’s just the first place my mind went, but here’s a snip:

One example Ms. Cohen discussed was the use of greyhounds as a possible respiratory assistance dogs. As a greyhound bred to race is trained to chases a lure, spends up to five years chasing that lure, and is then generally euthanized, why not train the dog as a respiratory assistant instead of killing the dog? Citing that a greyhound with his large chest and need for exercise is well suited to this job, the dog would also not succumb to separation anxiety because he would be a constant companion to the person depending on him for his life.
Another possibility Ms. Cohen proposed is to use a sheep as a “dialysis machine,” first designing a sheep for that purpose , and then connecting the sheep to a patient suffering from kidney failure via “blood lines” to the patient. The sheep’s kidney would cleanse the blood, urinating its toxins, and return the cleansed blood to the patient.
Ms. Cohen’s primary goal seems to be to keep both the patient and animal alive in the case of the greyhound, but mostly to provide the patient with companionship in the case of the sheep, as the sheep would have to be transgened specifically for the job of “dialysis machine.” (…read more,

More detail about her proposals are here ( Here’s a video from Cohen’s project:

Revital Cohen’s Pecha Kucha at Design Indaba 2009 from Design Indaba on Vimeo.

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