A genetically engineered pig heart in a glass jar

A pigs heart in a glass jar containing methylated spirit

A genetically engineered pig heart in a glass jar, CC BY Science Museum/ Science and Society Picture Library

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  • Intro
    Museum's Description
    Teacher notes
    • This is a very strange object indeed, and perhaps not what you expect to see in a museum (although we know lots of things that are kept in jars at museums). This is the heart of a pig that has been removed and genetically engineered to be able to work within a human body.

      This is a type of medicine known as xenotransplantation, that means extracting animal organs and changing them so they can be used in humans. The idea first came about at the beginning of the 20th Century and has been attempted on and off since then. It can be very dangerous however, and may have lots of damaging side-effects.

      Things to think about:
      • Why do you think the scientists chose to use a pig’s heart?
      • Do you think it is a good idea to use animal organs to save human lives?
      • If you could have any part of an animal what would you have? (We think we would have the wings of an eagle so we could fly).

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