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The Xeno Chronicles: Two Years on the Frontier of Medicine Inside Harvard's Transplant Research Lab Hardcover – May 24, 2005

4.3 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

For the 87,000 people on the waiting list for transplants in the United States alone, stem cell research leading to cloned human organs is a distant hope. Far more likely in the short run, at least according to its most passionate advocates, is xenotransplantation, or transplantation across species. Putting animal organs into humans may seem distasteful or even unethical, but in The Xeno Chronicles, G. Wayne Miller shows readers why it might be worth pursuing. The book follows the scientific trials and tribulations of Dr. David H. Sachs of the Harvard Medical School in his quest to successfully transplant into baboons the organs of a "double-knockout" pig--cloned and genetically engineered so that its DNA lacks two copies of the gene that causes its cells to be rejected by other species. Over the course of the book, Miller follows the fate of pig #15502, known as Goldie. Considering her ultimate fate, it's odd that Miller goes out of his way to relate how cute and cuddly the pig is. "Goldie passed a restful night and was happy and playful at breakfast that morning," he writes, then proceeds to describe her quiet, surgical end.

Animal rights activists likely won't appreciate how kind and gentle the animal researchers are to their subjects, and Miller gives them their say in the book. A PETA member points out that if people didn't eat so much bacon, they wouldn't need pig hearts to keep themselves alive. Still, Miller points out that the majority of patients waiting for organs did nothing to bring on their disease, and they have little choice right now but to wait--and wait--and sometimes die waiting for human donor organs. In this light, it's hard not to root for Sachs's passion for getting xenotransplantation right in a constant race against time and the medical research bureaucracy. --Therese Littleton

From 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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; First Edition edition (May 24, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586482424
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586482428
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,634,968 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
G. Wayne Miller is a journalist with a keen interest in the personal and professional lives of medical pioneers, who are little known outside their field. His past books include King of Hearts and The Work of Human Hands, both of which recount the day to day experiences of pioneers in the field of surgery.

In The Xeno Chronicles, Miller documents the behind-the-scenes activities of Dr. David H. Sachs, a legend in transplantation research. Dr. Sachs is determined to advance the field of cross-species transplants, known as xeno-transplantation. Miller gained exclusive access to Harvard's transplant research laboratory where Dr. Sachs and his colleagues attempt to harvest genetically modified pig organs and transplant them into baboons as a first step into animal-to-human transplants. With an ever increasing number of people needing organ and tissue transplants, and the immature promise of stem cell research, xeno-transplantation could be a saving grace for millions around the world. But Sachs's work, and the work of his counterparts, is being slowed down by politics, animal activism, and above all, financial constraints.

Miller does a wonderful job in not only focusing on the scientific work of Dr. Sachs, but also by touching-up on stories of animal activism and financial hardships experienced by animal research scientists. Patients who are desperately waiting for an organ believe that animals are the last chance they have at life, but activists think animals deserve the full respect bestowed on us humans and should not be used as spare body parts. This is why animal research scientists have become similar to undercover agents, proceeding through a plethora of security checks and biometric checkpoints to reach their labs.
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Format: Hardcover
G. Wayne Miller's The Xeno Chronicles: Two Years On The Frontier Of Medicine Inside Harvard's Transplant Research Lab focuses on Dr. David Sachs, a pioneer in immunology who has made many contributions in the field of organ transplants. His real passion lies in xenotransplantion: using animal parts to treat and replace human parts, and The Xeno Chronicles here examines his decades of work and the genetically engineered, cloned pig Goldie designed for organs which are not rejected by recipients. From limits of research money and time to moral and ethical concerns, The Xeno Chronicles does an excellent job of keeping a fast pace and a scientific eye on Dr. Sachs' promise and progress.
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Format: Hardcover
It seems like the more progress we make, the more we realize just how much we don't know.

Transplanting animal organs into people sure sounds like a good idea, doesn't it? It's been tried for decades with invariably disastrous results; the "Baby Fae" debacle, mentioned in this book, is by far the best known.

I'm deducting a star for the way the book seems to drop off a cliff, with a hint of propaganda.

OTOH, like other G. Wayne Miller books, it remains a good story with interesting and colorful characters.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Wonderful history of a turbulent time.
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