Innogen · Research · Current projects
Animal, Machine and Me: The Search for Replaceable Hearts

Gill Haddow

Funding: Wellcome Trust

August 1 2013 – July 31 2018

This project is a sociological investigation into modern practices that repair and replace the human heart. It serves as a study in its own right, but also one that has implications for developments in xenotransplantation and implantable technologies more generally. Utilising a case study approach, three areas have been identified as contributing to the construction of stories or biographies of the implanted heart. These are: 1.) decision-making processes around porcine, bovine, or mechanical aortic heart implants; 2.) recipient experiences of implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICDs); and 3.) total artificial hearts (TAHs) as an example of technological development in the area of whole organ replacement.

A multi-method approach is indicated and will be conducted at various sites in the UK and the US. Envisaged outcomes are: increasing understanding of both clinical and non-clinical factors influencing the choice of animal or mechanical implants; reasons for psychosomatic side-effects in ICD patients; and a review of the various factors involved in developing TAHs. There are, therefore, two transitions under scrutiny: the material from animal to human and the technological from implant to device to whole organ. Future research will seek to add an epidemiological strand by investigating the political economy of implants in developing countries.