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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: 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! http://www.drmichaellevin.org
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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.

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