Stolen Heads Shine a Light on Body Part Donation


March 10, 2022 — It’s not your typical theft, but it surely’s positively one which grabs your consideration.

Final weekend in Denver, thieves broke right into a parked truck and stole a blue-and-white field labeled “exempt human specimen.” Seems these explicit specimens have been donated human heads.

Whereas Denver police proceed their seek for the stolen property, many are left questioning how donated heads — and different physique elements — are sourced and used within the first place.

On this case, the field of heads was headed to an organization known as Science Care, primarily based in Phoenix, AZ. The corporate payments itself because the world’s main physique donation authority, connecting donors and pharmaceutical corporations, medical gadget makers, academic establishments, and well being care organizations. On this case, the stolen field was going again to Science Care after a medical coaching occasion.

“Science Care hyperlinks donors who select to donate their physique to science with medical researchers and educators everywhere in the world, resulting in medical analysis and coaching that improves the standard of life for all of us,” says Tricia Hammett, CEO and program director on the firm. “As the primary accredited non-transplant tissue financial institution on the earth, we pleasure ourselves on compliance and security in all the pieces we do.”

It is necessary to know the distinction between the sort of donation program and the organ and tissue transplant trade. The latter is ruled by the federal authorities and works to find and transport organs and tissues for the greater than 100,000 Individuals on the nationwide transplant ready record. The previous sort of program stays largely unregulated and isn’t concerned in transplantation.

As an alternative, non-transplant tissue donation can result in many alternative outcomes. One instance is taking cadaver tissue and utilizing it for medical and surgical functions. Assume ACL restore, whereby a cadaver tendon replaces the dwelling broken ligament, giving the recipient a brand new lease on knee well being. Or harvesting cadaver veins to make use of in heart bypass surgical procedures. Each are widespread and ship higher high quality of life.

Different makes use of for cadaver tissue embrace medical analysis and educating. Medical colleges depend upon these donations to coach their college students. Analysis establishments work with donated human tissues to advance remedies for a bunch of medical circumstances. These can embrace a wide range of kinds of most cancers, coronary heart illness, orthopedics, and even mental health. By utilizing organ and body-part donations, medical surgical college students also can learn to carry out organ and tissue transplants, practising their abilities on the donated elements earlier than advancing to the actual, life-saving procedures.

Donated tissues also can play a job within the improvement of medical and surgical units, even robotics for medical functions. This could result in much less invasive procedures, with quicker restoration instances, and might apply to a bunch of surgical procedures.

So about these stolen human heads, particularly — how would possibly they be helpful to science? Researchers would possibly use them to check human brains for the development of Alzheimer’s remedy, as an illustration. Or scientists might examine brain tissue to higher perceive how the mind regulates feelings or studying.

Thefts just like the one in Denver stay uncommon, and the investigation continues considerably beneath the radar as a consequence of its delicate nature. Hammett says the corporate is working intently with Denver authorities for a decision: “We’re doing all the pieces we are able to to find the stolen tissue and defend the neighborhood.”


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