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How to Make an Artificial Organ
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Programs from Thirteen/WNET New York's INNOVATION series portray amazing breakthroughs in medical technology involving the replacement of tissues and organs damaged by injury or degenerative diseases. "The Human Body Shop" shows progress being made in the development of technologically advanced prosthetics. How close are we to the development of replacement organs which are as good as the original, if not even better? Are we truly getting close to the appearance of a cyborg or bionic person?

In this lesson, students divide into groups and use a project-based learning approach to develop a model for an artificial replacement organ or limb that may possibly be developed in the not-too-distant future. In the course of designing and creating this model, students use math, science, technology, and mechanics skills. In order to determine an approach to their project, students learn about the structure and function of the particular organ/limb and its component tissues. Then, using information they obtain from the programs and other sources, they develop a design for creating an artificial replacement for the organ/limb. They will next create a 3-dimensional display model of the organ/limb using readily available materials, which they will test and select to suit the project's needs. Students will present their models to the class for discussion. Students will also use display charts and Powerpoint presentations to show how the artificial organ/limb might be made, based on current research, and they will defend its plausibility. Students can vote on which model is most realistic, most likely and best.

Subject Matter

Language Arts
Graphic Arts

Grade Level

Grades 9 -12

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:
  • Demonstrate understanding of advances made in the research and development of prosthetic devices and replacement organs/limbs
  • Demonstrate understanding of the anatomy and function of various organs and tissues of the human body
  • Perform online research to gather information about advances toward the development of advanced prosthetic devices and treatments
  • Apply the information obtained from the research in an original creation
  • Discuss and defend their creation Analyze the plausibility of artificial organ/limb designs and models.

National Standards

Standard 5, Level IV, Benchmark 6

Understands the processes of cell division and differentiation (e.g., meiosis, mitosis, embryo formation, cellular replication and differentiation into the many specialized cells, tissues, and organs that comprise the final organism; each cell retains the basic information needed to reproduce itself)

Standard 5, Level IV, Benchmark 8

Understands the structure and functions of nervous systems in multicellular animals (e.g., nervous systems are formed from specialized cells that conduct signals rapidly through the long cell extensions that make up nerves; nerve cells communicate with each other by secreting specific excitatory and inhibitory molecules)

Standard 1, Level IV, Benchmark 2

Drafting and Revising: Uses a variety of strategies to draft and revise written work (e.g., highlights individual voice; rethinks content, organization, and style; checks accuracy and depth of information; redrafts for readability and needs of readers; reviews writing to ensure that content and linguistic structures are consistent with purpose)

Standard 4, Level IV, Benchmark 3

Uses a variety of primary sources to gather information for research topics

Standard 3, Level IV, Benchmark 1

Uses a comparison table to compare multiple items on multiple abstract characteristics

Standard 2, Level IV, Benchmark 2

Knows how to import, export, and merge data stored in different formats (e.g., text, graphics)

Standard 4, Level IV, Benchmark 2

Proposes designs and uses models, simulations, and other tests to choose an optimal solution

Standard 6, Level IV, Benchmark 8

Knows different requirements for structural design (e.g., strength, maintenance, appearance) and that these structures require maintenance

Standard 1, Level IV, Benchmark 2

Understands how the communication of ideas relates to the media, techniques, and processes one uses

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INNOVATION Online is a production of Thirteen WNET New York. Copyright 2004 Educational Broadcasting Corporation.