Beyond anatomy | Changing the way we think about the body and its parts

In her 2012 TEDx talk, Nina Tandon explains how our ideas about the body as a whole and parts have evolved “from body intact to body replaceable parts to growing pieces of the body that are living from scratch.” Her explanation also highlights the relevance of scale and the distinction between part-whole relationships at the same level of scale (body parts-body) and those at emergent levels (body cells-body).

Body as functional unit

Body 1.0: This is an example…it’s Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man in which he drew this schematic of the human form inspired by architectural drawings. This can serve as a symbol of what the classical view is from a lot of different cultures of the body. The idea that it’s an intact unit, to be tinkered with but essentially left intact.

Body parts as functional units

The (Body 2.0) idea was essentially that instead of the human body being a functional unit, we kind of drilled down one step. Analogous to interchangeable parts and assembly lines revolutionizing manufacturing, we kind of had an analogous idea in medicine that if there was a part that in some way had gone wrong that it could be replaced.

Body cells as functional units

A new field was born, a field of tissue engineering, a field in which cells became the functional unit. Because after all each and every one of us began from one cell, and that’s how we first got built…The idea of growing biological substitutes…became this idea of Body 3.0.

Your Body 3.0 | Nina Tandon