• Question: How would the brain react if an organ was added to the body?

    Asked by Theo agent Tyszkies to Craig, Marta, Natalie, Nicholas on 15 Mar 2017.
    • Photo: Marta Varela

      Marta Varela answered on 15 Mar 2017:

      Hi Theo.

      A new organ like a 3rd kidney? (Where would you put it?) The brain would not know about it, unless you wired nervous cells between the new organ and the brain. You would also have to be careful with where you would get the organ from, so that your immune system would not flag it up as an “alien organ” and try to destroy it, killing you in the process.

      After that, I guess the details would be down to the organ itself. A third kidney would most likely share the kidney workload with the other 2, I imagine.

      What kind of organ do you have in mind?

    • Photo: Craig O'Hare

      Craig O'Hare answered on 15 Mar 2017:

      I’m not sure how the brain would react to a new organ but the immune system wouldn’t be too happy.

      The organ would need to come from a person with similar genetics to you. Our cells are covered in a molecule called major histocompatibility complex or MHC. We get our MHC from our parents. The immune system can recognise different MHCs are foreign objects and mount an attack on them. In transplantation this is a problem as the procedure causes damage which can activate immune cells and encourage the rejection and damage of the new organ.

      This is why doctors spend so much time trying to find a match for someone who needs a transplant. It is also why it can take so long to find a match.