Organ and Tissue Donation: An Evidence Base for Practice

By Magi Sque; Sheila Payne | Go to book overview

9 Xenotransplantation and the
post-human future

Mary Murray

When they see the half-pig man . . . The brute beasts will be heard to speak . . .

(Nostradamus, cited in Mekdeci 1997)


Introduction

Xeno is the Greek for strange or foreign. Xenotransplantation involves any procedure involving the transplantation, implantation or infusion of cells, tissues or organs from non-human animals into the human body. Xenotransplantation was first described in Indian mythology. According to a Sanskrit text from the twelfth century BC the Indian gods Shiva and Parvati had a child, Ganesha, who was born a giant. Shiva beheaded Ganesha and returned him to life with an elephant's head (Deschamps et al. 2005). Human animal hybrids however long predate this mythological account of xenotransplantation. Combinations of human and non-human animal, humanimal, figure in Greek mythology. The Esfinge for example combined the head of a woman with the body of a winged lion. The Minotaur, offspring resulting from the sexual union of a woman and a bull, combined the body of a bull and the head of a man. Celtic mythology is also populated with deities who have animal features such as antlers or horns (Mac Cana 1984). The Egyptian pantheon is littered with gods that have ram's, bull's, cow's, lion's, cat's, bird's, hippopotamus', crocodile's and frog's heads. The more well known of such Egyptian figures is probably Anubis, who was connected to the funerary world as the god of mummification, and a conductor of the dead. Anubis combined a human body with the head of a jackal (Germond 2001).

Humanimals have also figured prominently in art and literature. Humananimal hybrids are depicted in the art of prehistoric caves and rock shelters. The great painted caves at Lascaux, Chauvet, Pech Merle and Altamira include depictions of supernatural and chimeral beings including humanimals such as the Lascaux bird man and the Chauvet bison man and lion woman (Hancock 2005). Medieval and modern painters including Hieronymous

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