Support materials only that illustrate some possible contexts for exploring Science as a Human Endeavour concepts in relation to Science Understanding content.
The use of animals in research has played an important role in furthering scientific understanding of the structure and function of multicellular organisms and the mechanisms of medical interventions. Ethical treatment of animals as sentient, feeling beings has been accepted as a global principle in research and the three strategies of replacement, reduction and refinement form the basis of many international guidelines (ACSBL037). Replacement is defined as the substitution for conscious living higher animals of insentient material, such as through use of tissue culture techniques; reduction involves using only the minimum number of animals needed to meet statistical requirements; and refinement involves decreasing the severity of the impact of the procedure on any animals that have to be used. These strategies are based on scientific research and have been devised to inform sustainable ethical use of animals in research (ACSBL043).
Modern surgical techniques have made it possible for diseased or damaged organs to be replaced by healthy ones from a living or dead donor. Improvements in technologies to store and transport living tissue and the development of immunosuppressive drugs to decrease rejection by transplant recipients have led to increasing numbers of people benefiting from organ and tissue transplants (ACSBL039). However the increased demand for transplantation has also led to illegal organ and tissue trafficking, forced donation and ‘transplantation tourism’, where individuals travel to other countries where it is easier or cheaper to obtain a transplant. These situations may involve violation of human rights and exploitation of the poor, and pose many ethical concerns (ACSBL041).
There is a demand for bioartificial tissues and organs as an alternative to donor organs or tissues, which are in short supply and may be rejected by the recipient’s body (ACSBL040). To design bioartificial organs, scientists use knowledge of the structure and function of organs to design a scaffold and populate it with functional tissue. Healthy cells from the patient’s diseased organ are extracted and grown on the scaffold, with cells applied in layers to encourage them to form tissues. If the patient’s own cells are too badly damaged, organs could be grown using cells from a stem cell bank. Developments in this area could lead to a future in which surgeons would order organs to be grown as needed, removing the need to wait for donors whose organs and tissues might not be a perfect match to the recipient (ACSBL042).