Organ failure is one of those annoying problems many of us face — often sooner than we want to. The good news is that there are a lot of organs you can live without. You probably already know, for example, that your appendix and tonsils can be removed entirely without any harm done. But there are several other organs you can live without, or replace with synthetics, that you didn't know about. Get ready for a body without organs in our helpful guide to five organs you can can get rid of.
1. Heart valves. We haven't got a replacement for your heart yet — though a lot of people are researching it — but you can replace your heart valves with artificial ones like those manufactured by ATS Medical. These simple-looking device are fitted to your heart, opening and closing with each beat of your heart to push the blood through your body. Without heart valves, your heart has to work much harder to pump and will grow enlarged — generally a condition that leads to death. Many people are born without a heart valve, or lose one in a heart attack. They can also be replaced by heart valves from a dead human or pig.
2. Bladder. Tissue engineers have successfully grown bladders from human bladder cells, then transplanted them back into the patients whose malformed or damaged bladders provided the cell samples. Several people have received these synthetic biological bladders since 2006. They are beta bladders, and the patients aren't always continent. But now they have full-sized bladders when they didn't before, and that dramatically improves quality of life. So you can survive if you lose your bladder — just as long as you've got a few bladder cells left for tissue engineers to grow you a new one.
3. Large intestine. Many people with colitis — an immuno-deficiency disease that causes inflammation and tearing of the colon — have colectomies to remove the entire organ. But that doesn't mean they have to wear a colostomy bag. Surgeons can use a section of the small intestine to create a J-shaped pouch inside your body that acts as a surrogate colon. It's not as big as your large intestine was, so you have to visit the bathroom a bit more often. But you don't have to wear a bag, and you're surviving just fine with no colon at all.
4. Stomach. Like your large intestine, your stomach can be completely removed. Usually this is done when you have stomach cancer. The esophagus (the pipe that routes food from your mouth to your stomach) is rerouted to connect to your small intestine, and the surgeon can widen the small intestine in that area to create a surrogate stomach. Food goes through the same digestive process as before, but you can't absorb as much vitamin B12. So you may have to get bi-annual injections of the vitamin.
5. Kidneys. You've probably heard about kidney dialysis, where people with kidneys that don't function get stuck in a giant machine that de-toxifies their blood for hours. It's a crappy process, but it does mean that you can live without a kidney. The good news, though, is that there is now a wearable dialysis device, pictured above, which you put on your body like a belt. It doesn't work quite as well as dialysis, but it does the trick and many patients prefer it to the weekly dialysis clinic visit. We've written about the kidney dialysis wearable, and heart valves, before.