Credit: Rick Proser @ wikimedia commons

Repo Men is a film playing in UK cinemas at the moment.  The film is set in the future, where you can buy an expensive replacement artificial organ if yours pack up.  The only downside to this is if you can’t keep up the repayments, the company that supply the organs, The Union, send round a couple of repo men to take back the organ, with no concern over your comfort or survival.

The Union has its own website, where you can while away the hours searching through the myriad of organs that you can purchase and work out how you are going to afford them.  The technology to create these organs is advancing all the time (which you can read about here) and it may be commonplace in a few decades to have people walking around with an artificial heart or liver.  Hopefully, the violent repossession methods won’t be part of the package.

So, how could this be incorporated into a lesson?  After a series of lessons looking at a particular organ, both KS4 and KS5 classes could apply their knowledge of how the organ works to design their own artificial organ.  The students can use their knowledge of the different tissues that make up the organ and how they work together to research into man-made materials and design that could do a similar job.

How could an artificial heart pump blood at the high pressures that are required, and how could back-flow be prevented?  How could heart rate be maintained and what materials could be used that are light-weight, durable and non-toxic to body tissues?
This is a real test of how much they really understand about how the organ works.

At the moment the only long-term way of replacing a damaged organ is a transplant.  Students could look at the problems with transplants and discuss why we need to develop artificial organs.  There is also scope for looking at other potential future alternatives such as  harvesting genetically engineered animals organs or growing human organs from stem cells.

The trailer of the movie is shown below, but beware – its not suitable for under 18s due to its gory content – enjoy!