The Xeno Chronicles

Overview

An unprecedented inside-the-lab look at a promising but controversial frontier of medical research raises provocative questions about medical ethics, animal experimentation, and the relationship between science and business

Dr. David H. Sachs of the Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital is not a household name, but within medical science, he is a giant. An immunologist and surgeon, Sachs has made significant contributions in the field of organ transplantation...

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Overview

An unprecedented inside-the-lab look at a promising but controversial frontier of medical research raises provocative questions about medical ethics, animal experimentation, and the relationship between science and business

Dr. David H. Sachs of the Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital is not a household name, but within medical science, he is a giant. An immunologist and surgeon, Sachs has made significant contributions in the field of organ transplantation - contributions which, some believe, might someday bring him the Nobel Prize. But Sachs's real passion-and the possibility for a revolution in medicine-lays in his work in xenotransplantation: using animal parts to treat sick people. Untold thousands of people die every year waiting for the traditional transplant, in which human organs are used - and xenotransplantation might save them. It could also lead to a multi-billion-dollar business. The government and outside companies have invested millions of dollars in Sachs's work in the hopes of staking a lucrative claim in the future of medicine.

As The Xeno Chronicles begins, Sachs's decades of work and hopes have all converged on a genetically engineered, cloned pig named Goldie, whose organs have been designed not to be rejected by their recipients. And so experiments begin, with organs from Goldie and similar pigs being transplanted into baboons, a rarefied research that only a handful of scientists are engaged in. Just as Sachs begins to get unprecedented results, he loses his biggest financial support and the collaboration of an important outside lab. He is almost 62. Time and money are starting to run out....

G. Wayne Miller's absorbing, dramatic narrative account of a brilliant scientist's attempts to achieve a breakthrough offers an illuminating look into the minds, hearts, labs, and practical realities of those on the very forefront of medical science. Based on exclusive and unprecedented inside-the-lab access, The Xeno Chronicles clarifies both how science works and the ethical issues it raises through an absorbing human story and intimate portrait of Sachs, his colleagues, and patients.

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Editorial Reviews

The Chicago Tribune 7/31/05
"Miller takes a... balanced approach... although many are ethically queasy about mixing human with animal, others are not."
Publishers Weekly
Don't get too attached to Goldie, the baby pig traveling with her teddy bear in the opening pages of Miller's behind-the-scenes look at Harvard's experiments in xenotransplantation, cross-species organ transplants. She's been specially bred to create body parts that won't be automatically rejected by other species, and before too long her heart and kidneys will be given to baboons so scientists can monitor their viability. Xenotransplantation (xeno for short) has the potential to radically transform medical practice, and Miller (who wrote about the early days of open-heart surgery in King of Hearts) notes the financial stake pharmaceutical companies have in this research. But he focuses on the human issues, delving into doctors' motivations and thoughtful reactions to charges of torture by animal-rights activists. As Miller describes, every effort is made to minimize the animals' suffering, but the researchers' overriding concern is improving the quality of human lives. That sentiment is echoed by a woman desperately awaiting a suitable heart for transplant and a long-time dialysis patient, both enthusiastic at the prospect of readily available organs, whatever the source. Some personalities come more alive than others, such as Dr. David Sachs, the lab's jolly, optimistic head, but Miller always keeps readers' attention focused squarely on the hopes being placed on this research. Agent, Kay McCauley. (June) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
How would it feel to have a pig's heart beating in your chest? An award-winning writer for the Providence Journal, Miller (King of Hearts) spent almost two years shadowing Dr. David H. Sachs's Harvard researchers as they worked to make cross-species transplantations, or xenotransplantations, possible. Patients with organ failures may someday welcome the procedure, and the pig is a likely candidate: its organs are similarly sized to ours; we share few diseases that might lurk in transplanted tissues; and, best of all, a ready supply of hearts and kidneys is available from the millions of pigs routinely killed to provide ham and hot dogs for American carnivores. Miller details the scientists' painstaking and often frustrating progress, the challenges of obtaining the enormous sums necessary to support Sachs's complicated research, and the politically explosive issue of animal experimentation. Much is at stake: lives saved by the thousands; fame and fortune for the successful scientists; and, for the drug company that funds the breakthrough research team, profits in the millions. Although practical application of Sachs's research remains elusive, Miller's flair for a dramatic story and a brilliant cast of characters make this a gripping read for all consumer health collections.-Kathy Arsenault, Univ. of South Florida Lib., St. Petersburg Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781586482428
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs
  • Publication date: 5/23/2005
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.36 (w) x 8.22 (h) x 0.98 (d)

Meet the Author

G. Wayne Miller is a staff writer at The Providence Journal. He has won numerous journalism awards, including an American Society of Newspapers Editors prize for feature writing. He is the author of six previous books, including King of Hearts, about open-heart pioneer C. Walton Lillehei, and Men and Speed.

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Table of Contents

Ch. 1 Double-knockout 3
Ch. 2 Hearts stopping 25
Ch. 3 Waiting rooms 65
Ch. 4 Risky business 111
Ch. 5 The value of a life 164
Ch. 6 A perilous existence 188
Epilogue 207
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