Nina Tandon

Research Scientist, cooper union


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If your cells were used to grow an organ in the lab, is it still "your" organ?

Live TED Conversation: Join TED Fellow Nina Tandon

Nina Tandon is a postdoctoral researcher at Columbia University's Laboratory for Stem Cells and Tissue Engineering, Adjunct Professor of Electrical Engineering at the Cooper Union, and current MBA candidate at Columbia Business School. She studies ways to use electrical signals to grow artificial tissues for transplants and other therapies.

This conversation will open at 1pm EDT on October 3rd, 2011.

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    Oct 3 2011: Dear TED community: Thank you all for a very inspiring chat--the themes of intent, ownership, identity, and gratitude will be very much on my mind as I get back to work in the lab! Please do feel free to reach out to me any time if you would like to discuss these issues further, and let me know if you decide to start your own related conversation! In the meantime, may none of your non cancer cells become endangered species! Cheers! -Nina (
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    Oct 3 2011: that cell is not mine, it's Life... or CreativeCommons, if you wish :-)
  • Oct 3 2011: If you gave blood and it was then used in a transfusion, would that then be your body too? No.
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      Oct 3 2011: Hi Maya, I think you bring up a really interesting point--in a sense blood donations are our first experience with cell-based therapies! And a lot of the early debates about whether it was "OK" to donate blood back then are mirrored here--beliefs about where the "soul" resides, what parts of our body are part of "us" etc.

      I wonder, would you feel differently if a piece of your nerve tissue, heart, liver, bone marrow, fat tissue, etc, as opposed to your blood was used to grow a new body part (e.g. brain, heart, arm, leg, skin etc), where would you draw your own line? Which cells would you feel more/less attachment to, and, more importantly:

      • Oct 3 2011: Again it is intent. it depends on what you sign when the sample is given. Blood donations are given with the expressed intent of donating or giving to a bank or person. if it is taken without permission or for storage and personal future use or during a simple test then no it is yours.
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        Oct 3 2011: i still think that drawing a line is not that much difficult when donor have a choice and/or record where his/hers cells are going

        it is more important to who are you donating then what are you donating
      • Oct 3 2011: Hi Nina, if a piece of my nerve tissue, heart, liver, bone marrow, etc.. were being used specifically for the purpose of growing me a new organ, then yes, it would still be mine.... but if I donated it for the purpose of someone else to use, then it would no longer be mine. If, however, some part of me was being grown without my express consent - then my answer would be different. A lot depends on if it's done with your consent.
  • Oct 3 2011: I think that unfortunately, any product created by a patented technology becomes property of the patent owner. Therefore, the ownership of the resulting organ is not yours, and becomes a product that can be sold.
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      Oct 3 2011: hi Kevin, you bring up an interesting point about proprietary technologies, and it makes me wonder how you feel about that--how does turning a piece of yourself into a potential "product" make you feel?
      • Oct 3 2011: I personally would not do it if it became a produck. I am agianst medicine being a product. it should be available to everyone regardless of their wealth. saving lives is fundamental and basic right everyone should have.
      • Oct 3 2011: Hi Nina,

        Thank you for replying!

        How do I feel about it? I've taken something of a cynical outlook of these technologies. In this scenario, we would literally be selling ourselves out, to ourselves.

        That is a challenging circumstance of western society, especially as we've come to rely on capitalism to make distribution of life saving technologies a reality.
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    Oct 3 2011: I would think that it is your organ in the same sense that your child is "yours". It really isn't yours! It's its own!
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      Oct 3 2011: Yes Juan, this is a really great point, we do indeed have precedent for the idea of giving "birth" to something independent, don't we! But sometimes I get stuck with this idea--a colleague of mine, Dr. Michael Levin at Tufts, who has worked with an interesting creature called the planaria, which exhibits not only spontaneous regeneration (and so you can split it in half, and it becomes "two worms"), but also memory storage. Some interesting questions arise there too in terms of "how old is 'that' worm?" or "how long does 'that' worm remember how to swim through that maze?" etc... here's a link to his site!
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      Oct 3 2011: Also Juan, a child is derived from tissue from two people, not one, so ownership is further complicated. But realistically, I think the key piece here is that the child is a whole human. Whole humans have legally defined rights, and that's why you don't own a child. This is also why the abortion debate is so heated -- at what point to reproductive cells (obviously not a whole human) or even a zygote (probably unambiguously not a whole human) morph into a whole human?

      OK, take it another way. When you go get a haircut, you are chopping off a lot of "You" you didn't have to sign a waiver... Is hair too impersonal? What about teeth at the dentist? Or a melanoma that you had removed? Or your appendix? Or a breast from a mastectomy? Or a busted heart that you had replaced with an artificial heart? At what point do you feel like you "own" this stuff?

      Did you notice that it got harder to trivialize these things, as they got more dear to life? I'm starting a new question above that breaks this even more.
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        Oct 3 2011: Well, of course the whole concept has deep philosophical issues.
        One could say that the body that we occupy is not owned but really borrowed, and that you just have to take good care of it. Things happen to it over which you have no control, for example at what age you'll go bald, or how propense are you to becoming an addict. These instructions were imprimted before you were even you! So to worry about ownership of the hair or the arm, I think is irrelevant. The arm is there, so I use it! If I take good care of it it'll probably last for a long time and be useful to me and hopefully it'll do good to others as well.
        Of course, as with everything, we are required to act responsibly and maturely when deciding about anything that may affect us or others.
    • Oct 3 2011: Yes But a child has a spirit and at some time gains the ability to decide or protect it's self. The child while ebeing part of two people assumes it's own identity and genitic code. There fore it is not you or your property. somthing created from your dna your body I would think is your property. and you could decide it's fate just as you can decide to give a kidney to someone.
  • Oct 3 2011: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks took a medical research topic out of the lab and into the living room for me. Reading the story of how the use of her cell line effected her surviving family members long after her death challenged everything I thought I understood about individual identity . I was very moved by how how access to education, economic challenges and faith all influence the perception of personhood and those same factors weigh heavily in the evolution of medical ethics.
    I am not sure the story changed my own sense of self as much as it broadened my notion of the possible variations that others might have on the sense of self. My time in the work force has been solely in medically related fields so I thought I was fairly knowledgable on issues in medical research in a general sense. I have new found interest and appreciation for the complex issues of medical research and follow stories like your own with new eyes, ears and heart.
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    Oct 3 2011: I think it depends on whether you donated those cells or not, take blood donations for example, you can't control what your blood is used for, same thing for sperm donations; those are your cells but you stopped owning them the moment you gave them away. On the other hand, the lab that is doing such experiments is bound by ethics and should inform the 'donors' about what he's planning to do with their cells and respect their opinions. Cloning is a serious matter and Ethics committees should be involved.
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    Oct 3 2011: I humbly believe that it doesn't really matter if you "own" the created organ or not, because you never did own it. In the begining it was "yours" after your fathers "donation" to society "thru" your mother. I understand that maybe the whole issue is about the industrial organs that can be created at the laboratories so its just a another product who will become "mine" if I can afford it.
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      Oct 3 2011: hi Vasilios, I think you're hitting on an important philosophical undercurrent that seems to be flowing through this conversation--who "owns" the cells within our very own person? What constitutes the idea of property itself?
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        Oct 3 2011: Hi Nina, recently I had an expeirience of a quadrple bypass surgery and as you know the transpalnted vasculars were from my own body but I had to have the economic wealth to get in the OR . Unfortunately the med induastry is (at least in Greece) philosophically positioned "If you HAVE, you will LIVE" but on the other side and to answer to your question (allways humbly and with respect) we don;t "own" none of our cells, Ibelieve that we have borrowed them from the universe and we have the obligation to treat them well and improve them so when we have to borrow them to the next generations they must be improved so scientists can make them better and suffering one day will become less and less for human beings.
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    Oct 3 2011: Nina, thanks for raising this really interesting question, and to the other commenters and you for the engaging debate.

    There are a couple of interesting thoughts around this question...
    1) Is there an emotional attachment? My guess would be that people in general would not have as much of an emotional attachment to their cells, as to an organ derived from them. So, while people don't think about what happens to their blood cells after they've donated them, they would have more of an emotional attachment with an organ which was donated after being developed from their cells. Organs are limited in number, and more defined from the general populace's point of view. e.g. we often talk about heart failure, and rarely think about the cells that died.

    2) The use of the organ and consent regarding it: If the organ is being used in the lab for research and that is after the person's consent, I think they would be happy to 'let it go'.

    The interesting aspect comes in when the commercial angle is introduced. If a company were to make organs from your cells, and sell them, would people want 'royalty' on them? What if you had a certain mutation that made your cells incredibly rare and valuable? I don't know the answer to this, but worth a thought...
    • Oct 3 2011: Now the commercial angle is one I hadn't considered. However, we can see in certain fictional situations (e.g. Repo, The Genetic Opera) that there is an anxiety about people being trapped by a commercial power over their bodies.
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      Oct 3 2011: hi Surabh, Thank you for synthesizing the emerging themes of intent (and its cousin prosperity), and identity!
  • Oct 3 2011: Wouldn't the DNA go with the cell? Does the DNA change from yours to theirs when it becomes a part of another body?
  • R K

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    Oct 3 2011: Holistically speaking, the body itself is not ours, if it was we would have full control over it and maybe become immortal. We only have partial control, we can exercise or eat right and try our best to keep it in good health. I am saying this after seeing my beloved wife being snatched away from us, she lost her long battle to cancer in spite of getting the best treatment available. She was young, just 34 years old and left behind a young son too. I have seen the helplessness in her eyes. She responded on and off, nothing was able to control the growth of those bad cells and ultimately the cells took control. Though medical science has advanced so much, we are way behind in finding a cure for all types of cancer. The researchers have still not been able to find out what gets triggered in a cell that it becomes cancerous and spreads to other cells, how that can be reversed and how that can be stopped. We still rely on primitive treatments like chemo therapy which not only kills the bad cells but healthy cells too. The scientists have not been fully able to separate good cells while giving treatment. I fully appreciate the efforts of scientists like you who are doing a noble job. Please continue the good work.
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      Oct 3 2011: hi RK, I am so sorry to hear about your loss--and it makes your point about our lives not ever really belonging to us ever the more poignant. I wish you and your son the very best, and thank you for your encouragement as we all plod along, doing our best to unravel the mysteries we have at hand with the "partial control" we have the power to exercise.
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    Oct 3 2011: I think that if I contribute the cells and you contribute your expertise, we should be partners to a certain extent. I want to be able to veto organs from my cells going into a mass murderer or a person who committed crimes against humanity in favour of a child who need it. I also think that if my cells have something particularly wonderful in them like Henrietta Lacks' did (the cells that never die) and you are able to profit from them that I should also gain something. I likely would choose to donate my portion but I would still like my contribution to be considered when profit is to be made.
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      Oct 3 2011: hi Debra, I think you bring up an interesting point--the partnership between "raw materials" and "expertise"--it echoes the foundations of so much of human "productive" activity in these times in which the problems we aim to solve are bigger than any one person!
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        Oct 3 2011: Few scientists would be willing to give up their claim to their intellectual property and ownership rights are key in most areas of life these days. Yes, the problems are bigger than one person, but why is it that those in authority think that the little guy is the disposable? Raw materials in this case are not just chemicals are they?
  • Oct 3 2011: Having in mind that in 2015 almost none of my present cells will be there, and others will be in their place, i´m not the same during my life, not only in my thinking, but also in my biologic conformation, so, what´s the matter if it´s not part of me at the moment they generate it? It´ll be mine later, or a someone else part.
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      Oct 3 2011: Luis, thank you for bringing up a point I think is really important--our bodies are SO dynamic--so many of our body's cells are constantly engaging in the cycle of life at any given moment!

      It sounds to me as if you have a generous, long-term view of the cells and molecules that make up your body--I'm interested in hearing more about how you and others define your boundaries with the world!
  • Oct 3 2011: I'd say no, an organ grown from a person's cells no longer belong to that person.

    A few commentors have pointed out the fact that the organ is grown outside of one's body. So the original donor can only claim the few donated cells, while the rest is the result of the work done to culture those cells into an organ.

    An analogy would be a child put up for adoption at birth. The biological parents can say that the newborn baby is theirs. But after being adopted, cared for, and raised by other parents, the grown individual is the child of the adpotive parents. At least that's what I would argue.
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    Oct 3 2011: If you buy a used tire for you car, is it yours because you pay for it, or does it still belongs to the original car? When a mother gives birth to a child does she own that life? many seem to think so, but no one belongs to any one, symbolically maybe. A working organ whether it may be grown outside a human body or harvested from donor , can not work or do its job without a host, so who does it belong to; the human whose cells where used to grow it or the human who maintains it? If I donate blood, is it still my blood when its injected into some one else? I think nothing really belongs to us, nothing outside our bodies. Its amazing this question its been raised, we are as territorial as any creature on earth regardless of all our scientific achievements. How easy instinct takes over...mine! mine! its all mine! lol IF ITS NOT SUSTAINING YOUR OWN LIFE, THEN IT DOES NOT BELONG TO YOU... I think.
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    Oct 3 2011: OK, Nina, most people have been responding to the "What if you grew an organ" question, and I think that's interesting. But I don't really care about organs that much -- I'm more interested in products. For example:
    An artist team has been making bone wedding rings using actual bone cells from the couple. how does ownership work in this case? Cells make lots of great materials that makers could use -- horn, nails, teeth, hair, shell. If these are made from cultures obtained from people, how does the ownership work?

    Henrietta Lacks's HeLa cells may have lead to all kinds of incredible life-saving breakthroughs, but their legality is even now almost incomprehensibly convoluted.
    The tricky thing about cells is that they can be grown outside of people. And that means that a small culture that we might not miss, can go on to do gigantic things (like cure polio, for example).

    This is definitely an interesting question. And I want the answer too. Particularly when it comes to bikes made from bone :)
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      Oct 3 2011: Dominic THANK YOU for your points! And for targeting my real motivation (from a different angle, of course) for asking my question--that is, cells can do SO MUCH! they can make SO MUCH--gigantic things, as you say!

      How do we feel about that? Do we feel a sense of connection to those gigantic things that our cells can do, outside our bodies? does it affect how we appreciate the cells that are also doing gigantic things within our very own bodies?
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        Oct 3 2011: Dominic and Nina,

        I think the "gigantic things" angle is quite intriguing! Do you have an idea about the kind of consent form terms that exist currently during such cell donations? I mean, if you're donating an organ to someone (or even for research), I think most people know what the likely end-point is for the organ. But since cells can be grown and maintained for long periods of time, and can indeed generate 'anything' (depending on the cell, of course), there likely has to be a blanket consent for all uses, right?

        Regarding whether we appreciate the cells themselves, my guess is that a scientist or a scientifically aware person probably does... For most people though, even those that are aware of cells, the organ is bigger than the cells that make it (the phrase about 'the sum being bigger than it's parts')
  • Oct 3 2011: Cells are you but not yours. Nor do I think you should have control or influence over them but neither should they be identified as you.
  • Oct 3 2011: Of course it it still your organ. how could it be anything but. the only question at that point is what did you sign. did you sign to have the organ grown for your use or to be used by others or for research.
    Anyone who took and grew the part with out your concent is in violation of numerous laws and standards.
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    Oct 3 2011: I would say no, if it is intended for someone, it would belong to them once it has been attached but it wouldn't belong to the source.

    Declaring ownership because it was created from you is a slippery slope. Are children owned by their parents? If human cloning became a reality, would clones belong to the one being cloned?
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      Oct 3 2011: hi Will, I agree--this is indeed a most slippery of slopes! I'm interested in hearing more about how your feelings of intent would affect its "slippiness?"
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      Oct 3 2011: ......I would definitely OWN a clone of Tom Brady.

      Will True - super cool name !!
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    Oct 3 2011: Wonder why this great question didn't get more attention.
    This is a difficult one...
    To sort the possible ethical dilemma I assume there is plenty of legal paperwork to sign before donating cells (including release perhaps?)
    But you are probably more informed on this than us... what is the official position?
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      Oct 3 2011: hi Karina,

      Thank you for your thoughtful comments! Yes this is not a question with an easy answer! As you point out, sure, any time we get a biopsy, we're going to have to sign an informed consent document--but as in the case of many "Terms and Agreements" many of us have not yet explored the implications that often lie beyond the text!

      So, even "official positions" notwithstanding there are a lot of interesting unanswered questions--what WOULD our hypothetical attachment be to something derived from us, but grown outside of us? What ideas, morality, ethics etc WOULD we want those "Terms and Agreements" to reflect?

      I'm not sure I have my own answer for this, but am really interested in hearing the thoughts that develop from this conversation, as well as seeing how these ideas mature along with our field of research.
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    Oct 2 2011: It's a organ for who it needs....
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    Oct 3 2011: You pointed out 3 different examples of people making money off my blood, and these aren't the only ones: T use your words: "maitenance and transportation of said units very regulated and not cheap. The crossmatching is also an added cost."

    I'm not proud of the point I made, but it does cross my mind.
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    Oct 3 2011: I would say so. Just because your cells have been taken out of you, they do not cease to be yours. Even if you give the eventual organ as a donor, it will only belong to them on a superficial level.
  • Oct 3 2011: A very interesting topic indeed.. your cells belong to your body, not "You".. may sound a little philosophical..:)
  • Oct 3 2011: I would have to say no. Will True has bought up the major points in my mind. I would like to mention identical twins... Both have the same genetic make up. Does the twin who was birthed first own the second?
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    Oct 3 2011: ......I would definitely own a clone of Tom Brady.

    Will True - super cool name !!
  • Oct 3 2011: As my cell is containg my unique DNA, it will affect the new body or characteristics will be transfered to the new body.. it is anyhow , my organ..
  • Oct 3 2011: I think I have claim to the cells that formed and developed in my body. With that being said I have no problem with donating blood and organs, as long as I know that I am donating them. People should be aware of what is happening to their bodies. If a clone of me was made, genetically she would be identical to me. The environment in which she would grow up in would not be identical to the one I was raised in. There would be differences between us. Just think about how neural connections form. Different interactions with the environment lead to neural differences between people. Cloned organs are not going to be exactly identical to ones developed in my body and even if they were, they were not developed in my body. I neither believe that I would have claim over a cloned "me" nor any lab generated organs. I do believe that some form of consent should be required from the one donating cells but donation does not equal entitlement to what is developed from the donation. The organs are not you.
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      Oct 3 2011: hi Sarah, I agree with your sentiment--I really do hope more and more of us become more and more aware of the miracles that are going on inside our bodies every day!

      I wonder how our society's ideas about donation will change as our collective awareness shifts, in conjunction with ever evolving technological capabilities?
      • Oct 3 2011: I think education is crucial for changes in societal views on donation. I can not even fathom how a society with more information about how life works could deny the gloriousness of donation.
  • Oct 3 2011: I think this is the same as organ-or sperm donation. You would donate your cells, knowing that they would be used to grow organs to help people. I would be as attached to those cells, or the organ grown out of it, as I am to my sperm or fingernails. It's a part of me that keeps regenerating, so I won't miss it or feel bad or jealous if they would be used to help someone else. The only condition would be that the organs grown wouldn't be used for commercial use.
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      Oct 3 2011: hi Adrian, I think this captures some of the central issues here at hand--intent (donation vs commercial gain) and identity (and therefore possession). Thank you for sharing your personal thoughts about this! Let's see if fingernail donation ever becomes de rigueur!
  • Oct 3 2011: What I think is that, once I voluntarily give away my body cell, immediately I waive any rights whatsoever, except for the right to know what is happening with it and that too only to certain extent. However if my specifically my cell is needed and out of it a commercial benefit is being derived then I have the same rights in the product of my cell as I have in a copyright.
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      Oct 3 2011: hi Suyash, Thank you for sharing your thoughts with the group! I am sensing a sense of connection, as opposed to ownership, for you--wanting to know what's happening with the cells even if you don't expect to own them?
  • Oct 3 2011: Nina, I am not sure that the word "Yours" implies ownership or identity.
    In former case, my answer is yes, if it is not "donated"
    In latter case, my answers is no. Our identity is not just comprised of our genes, but it also includes the sequence of events occurred around us, our experiences and other variables.
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    Oct 3 2011: Intuitively, I wouldn´t say it´s yours, unless it is transplanted back into your body.

    Legally, it would depend on the agreement with the lab.

    Philosophically, if we assume it´s yours, then you can say that your grandson´s cells are also yours, and if we go further then we are all the possession of the first living organism.
  • Oct 3 2011: I think it has to do with consent and information content. In a certain sense, the organ is using an information pattern that is a part of the person's body, and that information content seems like something that is owned by that person. While this would not render an organ grown in a lab the legal property of said person (unless, of course, that was part of the terms of the agreement with the lab) it would mean that copying that information without consent or under an unenforcable contract would constitute some sort of legal damage, and the value of the organ (or potential future organs) used might well be a good method of signifying the "loss" to the person in a legal sense. So, in a broad sense, it would not be "your" organ- all things being equal; but there could still be legal damages assigned should your cells be taken without your consent, or under a contract that was not enforceable.
  • Oct 3 2011: I don't think humans put as much care into cells we can't see.. As some are making it out to be. What makes one cell superior to another? We cut our nails and hair without a second thought. Drink alcohol Or smoke which destroy our brain, liver, kidney, lung- cells. Most don't think of the consequence. So donating cells to potentially help someone Or ourselves with a new body part should be a no brainer. Put petty emotions and cellular greed aside and share. Help one another.
  • Oct 3 2011: I believe providing cells to improve humanity and future generations is as easy as the concept of giving blood in an attempt to save a strangers life. Or organ donation or bone morrow. I have a friend that has struggled Esophageal Cancer for the last 5 years. I would love to be the one to offer my cells to science so he could have a brand new esophagus. This would eliminate his stent adjustments in his throat every 6 months and allow him to breath normal.
  • Oct 3 2011: NIna thank you for this amazing topic and opportunity to discuss it. Thank you to the intelligent thought provoking comments by everyone. this is awesome to have such responses to provoke new ideas and concepts. I will be thinking about everyone's comments for days.
  • Oct 3 2011: This is a really though question. I think the answer lies in the DNA code. When you have a child he/she has a unique DNA code therefore is a separate entity. When you give blood you sign paper work giving consent for the blood to be used. That blood is then mixed into the recipient and although I am no expert wouldn't that blood eventually die out and be replaced with the recipients blood?
    The real question is can you copyright your own DNA code?

    I think for me it depends on what the original intent of the cell is being used for. Is it to make a profit? or help someone in need. If it is for profit then yes that cell is mine, if it is for NON-profit and used to help someone in need then how many would you like?
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      Oct 3 2011: hi Chris, like many others here, you are hitting upon some central themes of identity and intent--

      I can't help but ask: I'd be interested in hearing how your feelings of ownership might translate to the many billions of microbes living within your bodies, who do not share your genetic code?

      I'll offer that personally I don't think of my little gut microbes, for example as being "me" but instead view them as "friends" who help "my body" live... how about you? others?
      • Oct 3 2011: I agree, I don't see the little helpers and being part of me so much as they are along for the ride and for a mutual benefit.
  • Oct 3 2011: From a biological standpoint, I would consider such an organ to be at the very least a derivative of me. Whether it's still mine comes down to the purpose for which it was grown.

    Let's say, for instance, that one of my kidneys has failed and the organ is being grown for the purpose of replacing that kidney. Then it's mine, of course. However, say that a family member for whom I am a match needs a kidney, but is not in a position to give informed consent for the same process to be used to grow a kidney for him/her. The decision then comes to me to either donate a working kidney from my body or donate cells for a kidney to be grown in a lab. If I opt to donate cells, then is it not essentially the same as donating a kidney surgically? That is, wouldn't the kidney come under the ownership of the person to whom it was donated?
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      Oct 3 2011: hi Josh, I think you are hitting on another theme emerging here--the theme of intent--altruism in the case of your example.

      It makes me interested in exploring what level of attachment you might feel to cells, or any other "derivative" of your body? Do you think your feelings about this might change due to intent, I'd be fascinated to know...other thoughts?
      • Oct 3 2011: Cells in particular, I don't actually have an incredible level of attachment to. Frankly, if my cells can be used to further medical research, then I'm ready and willing to part with them, as long as it doesn't result in damage to my person. When it comes to said derivatives of my body, I suppose my level of attachment varies depending on its - this is the best way I can think to put it - level of sentience. For instance, children have been brought up in this conversation already. Children are, biologically speaking, derived from their parents. Obviously, were I to father a child, I would have a great level of attachment to it. Similarly, were I to be cloned in entirety, I would bear a strong level of attachment to the resulting being. However, most possible derivatives of single parts of my body couldn't be considered sentient as such, and so I would not be attached to them. The one potential exception to this is my brain. If it's possible to duplicate my brain in entirety, then is it perhaps possible to duplicate my personality, experiences, etc.?

        As far as the matter of intent goes, if my cells were to be used in research aimed at furthering harmful scenarios, I would not consent to their being sampled, although my emotional attachment to them would not change per se. The same goes for "more complete" derivatives of my body.
    • Oct 3 2011: Yes of course Josh. It was your cells intended to grow a kidney. You at some point donated or gifted it to your relative. Done deal. you cannot ungift or undonate it. even if you develop the need or failed kidney condition after you donate the cells or kidney. once it has left your body that is. If it is still in your body but you have signed you dont have to at that point let someone take it out.
  • Oct 3 2011: I believe if someone donates cells for scientific research which may help someone in the future, Its absurd to claim any possible 'metamorphosis' of the cells as yours. Especially considering Its state of donation and the fact the scientists have done all the complicated hard work. It would be most immature to say it belongs to you.
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      Oct 3 2011: Alex, as a scientist, I'm glad you point out the hard work we do in the lab! But, ownership aside, I'm interested in your ideas about which "states" of donation would make you feel comfortable about witnessing such a "metamorphosis" from cells that came from your body?

      At this point, I am noticing several themes--for some of us, donation of cells, even if they "metamorphose" later, follows the model of altruistic organ donation--for others it seems to follow more a model of giving birth--and still others refer to haircuts and medical waste--are others noticing any other themes?
  • Oct 3 2011: I would have said no, the organ is not yours since it was grown outside of your body, before I read the Henrietta Lacks story. I have a much greater appreciation for the complexity of this issue as well as the complexity of how different people see the issue of what constitutes an individual's essence now. Just glad it is being discussed and considered with seriousness.
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      Oct 3 2011: hi Rebecca, I am so moved at hearing your thoughts--one of my "missions" in life is to encourage a greater appreciation for the complexity of the cells in our bodies, and to explore what constitutes identity in the context of biology, spirituality, and philosophy.

      I am interested (and I'm sure others are as well) in hearing how your thoughts about this developed by reading Henrietta's story, and learning more about cell biology--making the idea of our CELLULARITY more of a personal story? how did this affect your sense of self? your conversations with others? your interest in medical research etc?
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    Oct 3 2011: If the donor agrees to give his/her cells,then ownership of the organ cannot be claimed by anyone.We need to accept the idea that a time will come when we will have to share our own cells for the sake of saving a life.Even if the donor claims the organ,then what would he do with it if doesn't need it?
  • Oct 3 2011: It´ll be mine as soon as it´s incorporated as a part of my body, and as I can "make use" of it, when it starts changing cells with the rest of my body, what is "me", then I´ll start feeling it´s part of me.
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    Oct 3 2011: IMHO the whole context revolves around "your cells were used" - Is it donation, is it something that was a dying tissue - the liability revolves around the fact that how clear my consent was involved in using the cells. Once donated with my personal will, its not mine indeed. The roles have a biological factor of it being a part of me, then yes it will always be medically, but then there is an obligatory factor that I have given off my ownership to claim it back.
    It belonged to me, and then it may belong to the lab I donated to and finally to the person it (or the grown organ) is implanted into.
  • Oct 3 2011: Nina, this is sort of off topic but i was wondering if you've ever done research into ECT therapy there is some research done about ECT stimulating neurogenesis, and from what it looks like that might link quite well with your research.
    Try this article
    I was thinking that your research might help to "fine tune" ECT to better stimulate neurogenesis
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    Oct 3 2011: It is definitely an interesting topic. I'm not 100% sure of my position on this as well. It's along the lines of the Henrietta Lacks story and her HeLa cell line. If there's consent, in my opinion I think it would be great to help others in need.
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      Oct 3 2011: hi Lisa, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks should be a must read for anyone interested in this thread--here's a link:

      I agree--informed consent is the key here to maintaining ethics--but what I'm even more interested in is digging a bit more into how WE feel about OUR OWN cells--after we get a haircut, as Dominic says above--do we still feel attached to that hair? or what about the cells you flush down the toilet or blow into a tissue or scratch an itch--every time we inevitably shed cells, are we attached to them?

      Lisa--I'm interested--what kinds of ideas, emotions etc would you most want the informed consent documents of the future to reflect? I don't think any of us has the answer individually, and so I think conversations like this are a great place to start!
      • Oct 3 2011: I am not very attached to those cells. even if I donated a kidney. once I donate it I pray it give good sevice and I worry that my other one will not fail. but It was a gift it is gone I have no further control or claim to it even if mine fails. I took a chance made my decision and I will live with the consequences.
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        Oct 3 2011: Humans shed hair and other cells (skin, waste, etc) daily without giving thought to this. I sweep it up and out or flush it down. I don't feel any attachment to these things. In the case of having my cells taken from a doctor during a procedure to assist in someone's benefit or even in science alone, I'd have some feeling it was 'my' cells that helped. However, I don't think I'd feel ownership on what it created. I'm not sure what I would do with an organ I don't have a need for. Nor do I think I could consciously charge for it should it be deemed legally mine.

        As for the informed consent documents it will be interesting to see if/when we have a waiver to sign for this. Would it happen on initial visits waiting in your records? Or something to be signed and discussed individually if needed? I can't imagine the in-depth information needed for consent for cells to grow an organ. Once legally it is established of who 'owns' the cells once detached it will be more a moral decision for some, I suppose. It's definitely a great conversation topic to ponder!
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    Oct 3 2011: well,
    my opinion is that it is yours untill it's implanted in someone else then it becomes their's
    it is actually pretty straigth forward
  • Oct 3 2011: hey,

    I go one step ahead and say, that human being is constitute of mental , spiritual and physical only isssu at the physical level esp cellular level changes the aspect.........But to see at the whole being. So its completely indivisualizing issue even thogh you are considering a cells from one's body....
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    Oct 3 2011: Actually I am working in heart regeneration...your comments effects me too much!
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    Oct 3 2011: Great question! For me it points to problems about medicine in the market-place altogether.
    CIP: I donate blood on a regular basis (I'm O+). Should I be paid for that? If so, how much? Can I call it a civic act when I give my blood away? Am I letting myself be taken advantage of?

    That sounds selfish doesn't it? But other people are making money with my blood.
    I'm okay with that, but the level of profit being made is sometimes frustrating.
    • Oct 3 2011: Other people are not making money off your blood if it is going to a blood bank, The reagents used to type and screen and test and the med techs (me) doing the work are very expensive. The maitenance and transportation of said units very regulated and not cheap. The crossmatching is also an added cost.
  • Oct 3 2011: That is an absurd notion Will. If that were true there would be little to prevent them from cloning you. I would bet there are many people that would like to clone stars, scientists, powerful political and financial people. without their consent. This could create an enormous misuse to engineer warriors, leaders, spokesmen. and could really upset the balance of power or normal course of events.
  • Oct 3 2011: Was the organ gifted or sold ... If there is a defect, am I liable ... Man, this is godly!
  • Oct 3 2011: I'd say, if you grow the organ with your own cells, your genome, then it's yours. If it were intended for you in the first place that is. Why use my cells to grow an organ for another? (not that I'm against it) Why not only use the cells from the person the organ is intended to. And here I don't mean donated stem-cells. If you donate, well then it's donated and therefore not yours.
  • Oct 3 2011: I think that the phenomena experienced by some organ transplant recipients (Adopting habbits/addictions of their donator) is an interesting point to consider when thinking about this question. Does the organ in question its self have a memory or a "life" of its own? And if so could that potentially throw a third party of sorts into the equation?
  • Oct 3 2011: Great question. The cells are yours but you have no capability to grow additional organs by yourself so you do need labs and scientists to help you grow one.

    The terms and agreements would change based on what the purpose for the organ is. If you are growing an organ to save someones life then the donor has no right to claim it once it's "installed" into the patient.

    If the organ is used for science then the donor should be eligible for royalties from any profits earned because of that research i.e. new drug.
  • Oct 3 2011: im sure this is already discussed alot of times.but there really isnt a you as i see.
  • Oct 3 2011: Yes it will still be mine. Two reasons to support this. Number one, the genome composition will be the same as mine. Number two, the organ grown can easily be united back to me without any major integration issues.
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      Oct 3 2011: hi Isaac, you have brought up a point that others seem to have in common--that genetic codes, like a "housekey" can be used to determine "ownership" ...

      I would love to hear your thoughts about a very special worm called the planaria, that can be cut in half, regenerate into two worms, with the same genetic code... are they the same worm? Does one own the other? Which one would own whom?