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Gills for people

Just another organ transplant?
  (+15, -4)(+15, -4)
(+15, -4)
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It's very possible today or in the near future to transplant organs from a pig into a human. We can also cultivate tissue from one species on the body of another and keep the tissue alive and viable. Would it then be possible to transplant gills from a fish onto a human, thereby enabling said human to breathe underwater? The gills could be transplanted into the person's cheeks, and blood vessels from the neck could be routed through them so that they would provide oxygen to the body. The main problems I see (and I'm sure there are more that will be pointed out very shortly) are keeping the human body's immune system from rejecting the gills, and finding some way to prevent large quantities of water from entering the stomach and lungs while the gills are in use.
PotatoStew, Feb 12 2001

Ear on a mouse http://www.smug.ade...e/deadbeef/471.html
Human tissue grown on the back of a mouse [PotatoStew, Feb 12 2001, last modified Oct 05 2004]

Pig organs for all http://www.nandotim...503048306-0,00.html
Not recommended, but becoming a possibility [PotatoStew, Feb 12 2001, last modified Oct 05 2004]

Why we need to breathe. http://www.pa.msu.e.../ask_st/013196.html
The reason for inhaling oxygen. [DrBob, Feb 12 2001, last modified Oct 05 2004]

Liquid Breathing System, as seen in The Abyss http://www.sciencew...g/movies/abyss.html
This is no bullshirt hands down the goshdurnedest thing I ever saw. [centauri, Feb 12 2001, last modified Oct 05 2004]

Respiration in Fish(es) http://www.csuchico.../ichthy/fshrsp.html
That clears it up. Human gills wouldn't work out of water either, I bet. BTW, what would Halfbakery be without google? There should be a link on every page. [centauri, Feb 12 2001, last modified Oct 05 2004]


       Would be nice. Would also require a method to graft fundamentally incompatible tissues, a complete redesign of human pulmonary circulation, and some kind of resolution to the markedly higher metabolism (and therefore respiratory requirements) of warm-blooded mammals compared to fishies.   

       Maybe a blowhole?   

       Or a bag with some air in it?
francois, Feb 12 2001

       Remember the TV show "SeaQuest"? They had one person on that show...one of Dom Deluis's sons....that played a person that had gills on his sides coming from the rib cage area around the sides to the back. He was, obviously, the person that they always sent out into the ocean to swim with the fishes.... PotatoStew, are you watching re-runs somewhere? Is an idea baked if it has been part of a sci-fi TV show or book?
Susen, Feb 12 2001

       I don't remember what got me thinking along these lines. However, I'm not just lifting an idea from sci-fi and saying "gee wouldn't it be neat if..." I'm actually proposing a method for acomplishing it. The means in this case is equally important to the idea as the result.
PotatoStew, Feb 12 2001

       A leech suit, huh? What a cool, yet disturbing idea, degroof... so would your blood end up actually passing through the suit? That could be dangerous if you scraped or ripped it.
PotatoStew, Feb 12 2001, last modified Feb 16 2001

       'Leech', not 'leach'.   

       Might be a better idea to put the gills in pouches on the arms and legs or something, so you're not running water around delicate breathing apparatus. The movement of the muscles as you swim would help pump water over them. As long as you don't have co2 building up in your blood, you don't really need to breathe. In high-oxygen atmospheres, sometimes people 'forget' to breathe because there's so little co2 produced...
StarChaser, Feb 16 2001

       If we could modify our bodies to break down water for energy, then we wouldn't need to breathe underwater at all. Of course, the solution would have to include a way of preventing our bodies from breaking themselves down.
DrBob, Feb 16 2001

       Negative perspiration, Degroof.   

       DrBob, there's not enough energy in water to make it possible to do that. Remember that fish eat. And as long as you have reserves of fat, breaking your own body down is ok...
StarChaser, Feb 18 2001

       Don't we, in effect "put together" water molecules for energy? (as well as CO2)
badoingdoing, Feb 18 2001

       StarChaser: alternative gill locations could probably work, as long as the actual gill tissue was covered and protected from the outside environment, but there were still openings to allow water to flow in, across the gill tissue, and then out again.   

       I'm still a bit skeptical about the feasibility of doing this with a suit though, because I don't quite understand how the interface between suit and human would work. Of course, it may be less problematic than getting a human host to sustain implanted gill tissue... I don't know.
PotatoStew, Feb 19 2001

       Point taken, Starchaser. So, ineffective for operating underwater but a great way to lose weight.
DrBob, Feb 19 2001

       As for the gillsuit, I should think that there would be some way for the oxygen, once obtained from the water, to pass through the suit's "circulatory system" and directly into the face mask of the suit. Another idea might be to use oxygenated fluorocarbon emulsion as the fluid in the suit. I don't know how hard it is to "oxygenate" that gook, though.
centauri, Feb 19 2001

       Ummm...this all sounds like an engineering or medical transplant nightmare. It might be easier, although a slower process, to extract genes from various acquatic life forms (fish is a good idea - but aquatic mammals probably have easier-to-incorporate adaptations) and insert them into the human genome. One should note that we all have rudimentary gills at the beginning (prenatal, very early on) and so must have some non-active genes which code for such a thing. A future generation could be aquatic....
chibbeln, Feb 19 2001

       Yeah! Just like The Man From Atlantis. Isn't that Patrick Duffy a great actor? How did he manage to hide his gills when he was playing Bobby Ewing?
DrBob, Feb 19 2001

       Badoingdoing: No. Water molecules are taken apart, not put together, and the components used.   

       I was actually thinking of surgical addons, rather than fooling around with human DNA, because that'd take forever to get right and may never work. As long as there are large enough veins running past/through the gills, it shouldn't be a problem. CONSTRUCTING them, on the other hand...
StarChaser, Feb 19 2001

       I agree, StarChaser... I think surgical add-ons (transplants) are more in the realm of Halfbakedness, unlike genetics, which (for this application) are in the realm of sci-fi.   

       Centauri: That's a great link... evidently it's possible to breathe liquid; does anyone know why our lungs can't extract oxygen from water?
PotatoStew, Feb 20 2001

       More to the point, PotatoStew, does anyone know why fish CAN extract oxygen from water?
centauri, Feb 20 2001

       There is a much greater problem with breathing under water... There is much LESS oxygen in water than in the air. I think it is about a factor 100 less! For humans that's about no oxygen at all... Warm water has even less...   

       Remember the good old flop Waterworld? I really thought it was so unlikely that a human could develop the ability to breath in water, but not drink salt water!   

       Dolphins and other whales have been living in water for tens of millions of years, but they never developed the ability to breathe in water. It's much better to breathe air, as it contains so much oxygen.   

       Humans might benefit however from an ability to drink salt water. Much more people would have access to good drinking water that way. And it doesn't require a complete restructuring of the body, but only a few manipulations to the kidneys...
Earthborn, Jun 20 2001

       Yeah, WaterWorld. Fantastic opening shot - IMHO. The rest of the movie sucked. I still can't figure out how the old man in the boat floating in the Oil was able to wear white clothes and glasses and be the most spotless person in the movie. Will wonders never cease...
thumbwax, Jun 20 2001

       ive been wondering for a while if there was a way that a 'gill pack' could be built but couldnt work out how to make theexchange. would it be easier to have a permeable membrane or a chemical reaction(similar to catalyctic converter in car)? if there is a problem with the amount of water you could use a motor to pass more water over the gills (since fish do this anyway)
chud, Jun 21 2001

       Fish use a motor?
angel, Jun 21 2001

       Fish are cold-blooded with small-brains and hence low oxygen requirements. It seems unlikely that a resonable size, gill-type apparatus would be able to supply sufficient oxygen to make this work.   

       It would be more interesting re-engineer humans with avian pulmonary systems. This pass air through, by means of special valves, whereas human's breathe in and out, which is less effecient.   

       It might not help you breathe under water, but it would help you to catch your bus - even if it was moving...
riposte, Jun 21 2001

       Why not just give people the ability to respire anaerobicly (without oxygen) for extended periods of time.
RobertKidney, Jun 21 2001

       And how would that be done?
PotatoStew, Jun 21 2001

       Edward Kidney tried that experiment with a girl in a car going off a bridge - it didn't work.
thumbwax, Jun 21 2001

       I would have thought the solution to this is a more compact and efficient re-breather...
CasaLoco, Jun 21 2001

       Welcome to today's episode of 'What the hell was that?'...
StarChaser, Sep 22 2001

       tw are you mixing up Edward Kennedy with Robert Kidney by any chance
po, Sep 22 2001

       <FONT FACE="Gill Sans">The only font to use when annotating this one!</FONT>
snagger, Sep 22 2001

       Huumm..maybe instead of adding gills we could improve the ability of the human lungs' ability of holding air. Possibly even adding more than just two lungs to the body. How do you feel about having twenty-five lungs, eh? OR, we could make the human skin selectively permeable as a reaction to getting in water, or something like that. Though, that may be a problem. We'd have to think like mixing a frog (breathing through the skin) with the crocodiles/alligators able to breathe in both salt and freshwater streams and oceans and such. How about it? Only thing that may pose as a problem with that would be skin care products clogging the pores, and what about sweating?
Turin, Nov 23 2001

       ...which annotation launches this idea into the deep space of "wouldn't it be neat if"...Lungs are kind of as big as they can be, because there's no other room.   

       And all the things you mentioned are cold-blooded and don't need as much oxygen.
StarChaser, Nov 24 2001

       would certainly make it easier to get that damned ring at the bottom of the pool.
animatedvixen, Mar 26 2003

       just make a pump that seporates oxygen and water and air and have it pump the oxygen through a bunch of tubes to be desolved in the blood stream. if you just attached them to patches, not needles, and put them in a wet suit, it might work. mayby just do the same thing with gills as an attachment to the body and veins and muscles attaching it to some out of the way place on the body; mabey if it was between the brain and the skull, with the skull made larger to fit it and gills on the forehead. Ugly, but it would work
ScincePerson, May 26 2003

       oh too funny.
po, May 26 2003


       This is an idea i have been meditating on for a while. I have researched many methods to achieve breathing underwater including both technology and mutation of genes. I think a stong possability would be this... Using a backpack which was a hardcase, the outside covered in solar cells. The minimal electricity created from the cells charges a battery which in turn is used to pass a current through seawater drawn into the backpack. Through electrolysis the seawater is seperated into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen can bubble off or be used in a very small generator in the backpack to further charge the batteries becuause as we all know electrolysis is energy demanding. NOW HERES THE COOL PART! the oxygen is stored and pumped directly into the blood stream using new technology being developed right NOW! Please read below... The IMO (Intravenous or Implantable Membrane Oxygenator) device has been designed to oxygenate the blood before it gets to the lungs, which allows the lung to rest and recover. (this technology is being developed for people with respiratory problems or injuries on the battlefield...) Oxygen enters through an external tube and flows through the fibers under vacuum pressure. The oxygen in the fibers diffuses through tiny pores in the fiber wall into the blood. At the same time carbon dioxide diffuses out of the fibers and exits through a second tube. The central balloon pulsates about 300 times a minutes to move the fibers and mix the blood. As this balloon inflates and deflates blood is drawn across the fibers. This provides little impedance to the blood flow returning to the heart. The IMO device is implanted through the vein in the leg, using percutaneous insertion (as done for angioplasty catheters and intra-aortic balloon pumps). The device is then positioned into the Vena Cava. WELL WELL with this technology divers could be submersed indefinately, only to surface to clean out salt deposits in the electrolysis chamber to ensure the seawater can continue to seperate into oxygen and hydrogen gas. Their lungs would not be used under the water as the oxygen passes straight into the bloodstream. Is this the beginning of a new race? IndigoBlue
indigoblue, Mar 03 2004


       I agree in part (membranes) but the electrolyis part? Underwater, solar energy reduces rapidly with depth and so the amount of energy will be low. To use the hydrogen for energy you need to use the oxygen...and you will definitely use MORE hydrogen and oxygen to generate energy for electrolysis than the electrolysis can produce using that energy! Better let hydrogen bubble off...   

       Better still to get either an artificial gill membrane array on our backs or tweak our genes to re-express the gill- making aspects - I am sure they are still there as I believe all human foetuses start off with proto-gills.   

       Oxy-gum, anybody?
timbeau, Mar 03 2004

       This reminds me of 'Tails for all'. One of the most popular non-invention ideas ever.
Jinbish, Nov 07 2005


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