Organ transplants are nothing new. We’ve been putting one person’s insides into another person’s body for decades with increasing success. There are still certainly concerns to contend with – organ rejection, infection, and murderous body parts if cheesy horror movies are to be believed, but if you’ve got a bad heart, liver, kidney, or other organ there’s a decent chance that a transplant can save the day. But what if you’ve got bigger problems? What if your entire body is shutting down? Science Fiction has handled this exact issue plenty of times before, but Science Fact may be starting to catch up.
Surgeon Sergio Canavero, director of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group in Italy has hypothesized a method to transplant a human head from one body to another. This is all speculation right now, though Canavero has published his theories and lays out a plausible plan. It even involves plenty of visuals straight out of the movies. Both bodies would first be cooled, necks would be cut and major blood vessels would be connected with tubes, and finally the spinal cord would be severed with the utmost care to ensure the cleanest possible cut.
The spinal cord is really the most important part in this equation. Researchers have transplanted animal heads before, but without repairing the connection to the spinal cord the end result is paralysis. The source link below has some links to videos of these procedures if you’re into that sort of thing. Canavero has planned for this undesirable result. After connecting the spinal cord, it would then be flushed with polyethylene glycol – a binding agent for the fat in cell membranes. Injections of the polyethylene glycol would then continue for several hours before stitching everything up. To prevent the tearing of stitches or other movement-based problems the patient would stay in a medically induced coma for a few weeks while the spine would be stimulated with electricity in an attempt to make a stronger connection between the newly formed spinal cord.
You won’t be up and dancing around immediately, but Canavero believes that with therapy the patient could be walking within a year. He intends to start testing his process on brain dead organ donors, with several backup plans if the polyethylene glycol proves unsuccessful.
That plan is great and all, but it ignores the 500 pound gorilla in the room. In order for this process to work, it’s really pretty important that both the donor and the donee are alive, or at least mostly/recently alive. Too much delay from the time of death to the transplant and the donated body would become unusable.
This wouldn’t be a problem if we could set up some sort of facility straight out of a Sci-fi movie to create and hold cloned bodies used for transplant, though similar ideas have been floated around in the real world. For example, the idea of a headless clone that would be used specifically for transplant has been thrown around before. If we could grow human bodies that simply didn’t have a head/brain, should we? These are issues that are far beyond the scope of this article, but if it could save your life, would you be more inclined to support it?
Dr. Canavero understands that this idea may make people uncomfortable. He understands that it may never become a reality.
“If society doesn’t want it, I won’t do it. But if people don’t want it in the US or Europe, that doesn’t mean it won’t be done somewhere else. I’m trying to go about this the right way, but before going to the moon, you want to make sure people will follow you.”
So head transplants, yea or nay? Let us know in the comments or on your favorite social network.Source: CNET