chapter  34
Organ Transplantation: From Myth to Reality
Pages 5

Success in transplantation-the transfer of living tissue from one location to another in order to restore normal function or structure-has only been achieved in the past half century. The idea of transferring body parts to strengthen the powers of the recipient, however, has been stimulating the imagination of humankind for sev­ eral millennia. Ample examples of chimeric gods and heroes with organs from dif­ ferent species are found in the Greek mythology. There are also examples of auto transplants in the New Testament, like the story of Jesus of Nazareth restoring a servant’s ear, which was cut off by Simon Peter’s sword. Also noted are the stories of Saint Peter reimplanting the breasts of Saint Agatha, which were pulled off during torture, and of Saint Mark reimplanting a soldier’s hand, which was amputated during battle.1 Perhaps the most famous of the legends is the extraordinary descrip­ tion of a cadaveric whole-limb allograft described in Jacopoda Varagine’s Leggenda Aura in 348 A.D. In the “miracle of the black leg,” the twin saints Comas and Damian replaced the gangrenous leg of the Roman deacon Justinian with a leg from an Ethiopian man who had been recently buried.2